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Re-emerging infectious viruses raise concerns

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By Timothy Akintola

Factors, implications associated with re-emergence of these infectious diseases.

The re-emergence of various cases of infectious diseases have raised a huge concern. Viruses such as Langya Henipavirus which was discovered in China, West Nile virus in America, Marburg virus in Ghana, Ebola virus, monkeypox strains and Covid-19, to mention a few. The emergence and re-emergence of these viruses have posed a huge threat to the global community, disrupting the natural human order like during the Covid-19 pandemic. Schistosomiasis, for instance, is a parasitic disease that has been recorded to have re-emerged in Egypt, largely as a result of the Aswan Dam. Legionellosis is another disease that has been identified post the pneumonia outbreak among a group of individuals that attended a conference in Philadelphia.

The sudden re-emergence of viruses has raised many questions, such as why numerous viruses are suddenly springing up, whether Nigerians should be concerned, the implications. Especially on the public health efforts to overtly eliminate malaria, as well as the role of the government and individuals to collaboratively safeguard the human race. Recent research indicates that these viruses are weakening the immune system, causing health deficiencies like erectile dysfunction and enlarged hearts and lungs.  In fact, some schools of thought are predicting that the end of the human race is getting closer. Since the 1970s, over 40 infectious viruses have been discovered, and the World Health Organization (WHO) noted in its 2007 report that the subsequent rise of infectious diseases is occurring at a rate that has never been experienced before.

Disease re-emergence, due to natural processes and human practices.

The increased mobility of people and animals, as well as the close contact between them, has raised major concerns about the potential for emerging viruses to spread quickly and lead to a global epidemic. There are also concerns about the emergence of viruses due to the deliberate introduction of them into the human population, animal or plant and for terrorism purposes.  Some of these viruses include smallpox, anthrax and tularemia. However, there are numerous factors involved in the emergence or re-emergence of these infectious diseases. While some are consequences of natural processes such as the evolution of pathogens, and other factors are significantly a result of human practice.

For the establishment of an emerging virus, there has to be an infectious agent being introduced into a vulnerable environment, and the agent readily present to spread the virus. The virus must also possess the ability to sustain itself within the environment, that is more people being infected. Many viruses emerge when these infectious agents are passed from animals to humans and due to the expansive human population, there is an increased possibility for humans to come in contact with these animals that carry the infectious agents. With the increase in human density and mobility, the spread of these viruses poses a huge threat to the human health. Climate change for one has become a pivotal factor for the emergence of these infectious diseases due to the earth’s climate warms which alter habitats.

Emergence and re-emergence of these viruses follow a similar pattern.

Professor Boaz Adegboro, a Professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology stated that numerous viruses are re-emerging as a result of people keeping exotic animals as pets, as well as an increase in the appetite for aquatic animals. These scenarios, he noted l, has led to the emergence of SARS-coV-2 pandemic. He further stated that epidemics are the lives of diseases and keeps the microbial kingdoms alive. He asserted that while we take measures to control virus’ outbreaks, the genes of these organisms mutate and the community does not have any immunity against the new mutant, as in the recent outbreaks of monkeypox and the numerous hemorrhagic fevers.

Adegboro also admitted that these infectious diseases which weakens the human system signals the beginning of an end of the human race, asserting that severely ill individuals cannot observe reproductive processes. The National Chairman, Clinical Pharmacist Association of Nigeria, Dr. Joseph Madu also noted that the emergence and re-emergence of these viruses follow a closely related pattern. Answering the raised concerns, he said that Nigeria as a responsible action must be absolutely concerned about these re-emergences and the nation’s vulnerabilities to these outbreaks. According to him, the increased emergences of viral diseases are closely together with the known factors associated with the development and/or transmission.

Population growth, poverty, migration also contributing to this emergence.

Madu noted that population growth, poverty and malnutrition, migration and deforestation are factors that have contributed to the global issue. He however said that Nigeria must strengthen its mitigation and surveillance activities by ensuring an improved institution and creating public awareness. He applauded the approval of community pharmacies as vaccination centers, noting that this step would reduce vaccine hesitancy and improve public awareness. He also said that the discovery of these re-emergences indicates an advancement in the global science and technology. Meanwhile, WHO’s Research and Development (R&D) Blueprint is also working towards creating a consultation to apply scientific knowledge acquired from the SARS-coV-2 global pandemic to address the research needs of unknown infectious agents capable of future pandemics.

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