Sep 01, 2021 15 min read
Living with the Invisibile
Sandeep Sharma, IOCL
Sandeep Sharma, IOCL
The corona virus is invisible, but its effects are visible everywhere. This virus is changing our lives radically without ever revealing itself directly. All of this is because an invisible virus jumped from a bat to a pangolin to a human and then on to millions more people. We do not know who we need to avoid and who we do not need to avoid, leading to physical distancing from everyone who is not in our household.
It has affected the lives & livelihoods of people across the world, causing untold suffering and dislocation. It has unleashed hopes for change in our society and has also made us more aware of our shared humanity, the value of strong local communities and the importance of our connections to nature. It has reawakened people, to the way human activity affects the environment.
There is this invisible threat of a virus but then there are visible threats like loss of jobs, slowing of economy, effects on social, mental and physical development of children, physical & mental effects of COVID-19, which are affecting us.
Another invisible enemy is the misinformation and fake news about the virus. Authentic, concise, and effective communication of information about the virus is essential to combating its spread and protecting the public.
Many choices lie ahead as we grapple with the fallout of the pandemic. The decisions being made now in our families, communities and nations will have consequences for generation.
Why Our Goals Need to be to Live With the Virus
Our goals need to be to live with the virus because eradicating COVID-19 virus in near future is almost impossible. Till date we have achieved eradication of only one virus, that is smallpox in 1980. It took decades to get to that point.
Scientists and governments were only able to achieve this because of effective and stable smallpox vaccine which did not need to be refrigerated. It was also clear when someone was infected with smallpox, as lab test was not required for its diagnosis and this was a huge advantage in trying to contain the outbreak of smallpox.
COVID-19 may never go away but it is possible to live normally with it in our midst. At present vaccines & preparedness are the only two things which we cannot afford to ignore to come out of this crisis.
Theoretically vaccines provide us a tool to control the virus, as we had for measles. But measles is an unusually stable virus while COVID-19 virus is highly unpredictable virus, with emerging new variants, which may have the potential to evade the effect of vaccine and this impact of variants on vaccines needs to be carefully watched for.
The challenge therefore is to get ourselves updated with the latest information about the virus and keep our preparations two steps ahead of the virus. In this context it is better to learn living with the virus.
Therefore, our aim must be to manage with the virus and bring it to a tolerable level, and then suppress it to the point of elimination. We need to get to the point where we can “de-risk” COVID-19.
We can aim for a zero COVID strategy, but basically it means now, to bring COVID-19 cases close to zero in a territory and contain them there. Continued restrictions to get cases low, coupled with a more effective test, trace, treat and vaccination strategy can only suppress the virus and keep it suppressed for a prolonged period. But this affects our lives and livelihoods as restriction limits our travels and day to day life activities. short, focused lockdowns becomes inevitable when the cases again flare up.
How to Continue Living With the Invisible Corona virus
1. Ensure Vaccination: Based on the indications from clinical trials of vaccines and recent experiences, it is evident that vaccines have a significant impact on infections and where they do not, they will at least help to prevent serious illness, hospitalizations, long COVID complications and deaths. If you are fully vaccinated, your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lowered thereby preventing overwhelming of the health care infrastructure
2. Have strict Policies for effective implementation of COVID Appropriate Norms: People do not appreciate the risks they run and it goes against human nature for the people to shut themselves up in rigid isolation as a means of protecting others, they become complacent and often unconsciously act as a continuing danger to themselves and others. Strict policies & their effective implementation makes people adhere to COVID Appropriate Norms.
3. Assume that everything is infected: The presence of the virus in asymptomatic carrier and common public areas may create a problem, thus it will be the most crucial step to manage. The best way is to assuming that everything is infected, and we must follow zero contact policy for elders and immune compromised persons.
4. Redefine Social Norms: We need to be careful about people’s behavior, as this is influenced by social norms i.e. what they perceive, that others are doing or what they think that others approve or disapprove of. Social networks can amplify the spread of behaviors that are both harmful and beneficial during the pandemic, and these effects may spread through the network to friends, family members & colleagues and may lead to increase transmission of the virus. The visual mapping of the transmission of this virus is thus the visual mapping of our habit’s, interactions, personal and social behavior. So, we need to redefine our social norms, which define our social and human behavior and may prevent or put us at risk to COVID-19.
5. Strengthen Community Engagement: Stay prepared with COVID care resources by engaging local communities. This will help you in the times of need and when health care infrastructure is overwhelmed with local surge in cases.
6. Bring a Behavioral Change in your Lives: COVID crisis requires large scale behavior change and social and behavioral sciences can be used to help align human behavior with the changing scenario. Life could return to something like normal, if we bring a behavioral change in our lives, otherwise sustained restrictions will lead to huge economic and social costs.
7. Avoid Panic Buying: Because it affects those who are particularly vulnerable, and they may experience more distress in acute shortage of necessary essential commodities. This may lead to inequalities in access to resources.
8. Take care of Children: We need to open schools with precautions since schools are important for social, mental, and physical development of children. Studies show that one-year closure of a school leads to 2 years loss for children.
9. Go for Graded opening: Unlock is simply not removing restrictions but it is a gradient dynamic strategy which needs to be followed. We need to open outdoors first; parks and public spaces can be opened earlier. After opening two to four weeks of outdoor opening, indoors need to be gradually opened. Micro social behavior assessments must be followed by micro containment of affected areas.
10. Enlist & Ensure Precautions to be taken by Domestic workers/ Housemaids: This will ensure your safety towards the virus.
11. Stay Connected: As humans we love bond with other people we want to fit into our society and community. We desire a connection with our friends’ family and even strangers as human nature. We love to socialize and communicate with other people
12. Stay Informed: Stay up to date with new and updated developments on the COVID-19. Staying informed does not mean that you must follow the news all day. Check in a few times a day, stick to trusted authentic sources. Be sure to use your good critical thinking skills before making an opinion about a news item.
13. Be extra careful & stay alert: It is said that you cannot hit what you cannot see but human being has evolved to respond to the real that exist. Considering our limited ability to fight this invisible, we need to be extra careful.
14. Limit you’re Travels unless it is necessary: Travel, like any other activity involves meeting other people and is not risk-free, even after full vaccination.
15. Setting a routine can be helpful: In addition to doing your work make sure to schedule time for your physical and emotional health, sleep, fun, creativity, social connections, and stress relief.
16. Monitor your Health: Monitoring your health and knowing the symptoms of COVID-19 can help stop the spread of the virus.
17. Effectively Manage your Co morbidities: Co morbidities like diabetes hypertension must be effectively managed, immunity boosters and proper nutritious food plans must be followed. These supplements in diet can mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19.Proper diet can also decrease the risk of and help to control diabetes hypertension and obesity, which are considered as risk factors for COVID-19 complications. Key nutrients like proteins fats and carbohydrates support the immune system and can be obtained through fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, dairy products and healthy fats.
18. Take care of your Mental Health: One of the central emotional responses during a pandemic is fear. An emotional response to a risky situation can influence thinking. The experience of fear and threat has ramifications not only for how people think about themselves, but also how they feel about and react to others. Mental health along with basic required protocols needs to be taken care of which includes our social behavior towards the virus. Our behavior must not affect others health.
19. Regular Physical Activity: Regular physical activity benefits both the body and mind. It can reduce high blood pressure, help manage weight and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and various cancers - all conditions that can increase susceptibility to COVID-19.
20. Ensure Appropriate and suitable Ventilation: Ventilation must be improved and ensured at home & in offices. Opening windows and air circulation can dilute the concentration of virus in the surrounding atmosphere.
21. Invest in Health Systems: Recognizing that the virus will be with us for a long time, we should also use this opportunity to invest in health systems, which can benefit all populations beyond COVID-19, as well as prepare for future public health emergencies.
22. Invest in Research: We need to support and invest in research and development on therapeutic agents and vaccines for COVID-19 and related human corona virus diseases.
Finally, whether we can live with this invisible enemy SARS COV-2 virus, depends on our acceptance, that COVID-19 will remain there in small geographical pockets and our collective behavior towards the virus must change. If all of us shoulder this burden together and follow above mentioned norms, our society will be safe. This is the only way we can keep ourselves safe from the invasive danger of this invisible virus and start normal living with new norms of life..
The information shared, is solely intended, for the benefit of young industrial physicians & is contributed from the archives of what we have learnt from the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by our great teachers. Any updates in the present context may please be verified.
Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash
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