‘Far from over’: What past pandemics can tell us about ending COVID-19 – National | Globalnews.ca


After two years of strict COVID-19 lockdowns and journey advisories, there are indicators of a return to regular in Canada and different elements of the world as restrictions are being lifted.

However despite the fact that new COVID-19 circumstances and deaths are on the decline globally, the pandemic is much from over, in keeping with the World Health Organization (WHO) and different specialists.

“It’s far too early to declare victory over COVID-19,” said WHO Secretary-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week.

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“There are nonetheless many nations with excessive charges of hospitalization and dying, and low charges of vaccine protection and with excessive transmission. The specter of a brand new and extra harmful variant stays very actual.”

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So far, greater than 450 million folks have been contaminated with COVID-19 and upwards of six million have died, in keeping with a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

On the second anniversary of COVID-19 being characterised as a pandemic by the WHO, International Information takes a glance some previous pandemics — current and previous — and the way they ended.


The influenza pandemic that broke out in 1918 throughout the First World Struggle was probably the most devastating flu outbreak of the 20th century.

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It was brought on by the H1N1 virus and should have originated from an avian reservoir, in different phrases a fowl, in keeping with specialists. Like COVID-19, this pandemic was brought on by a respiratory sickness.

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Despite the fact that its not clear the place precisely the pandemic began from it was generally known as the Spanish flu.


Members of the American Purple Cross take away Spanish influenza victims from a home at Etzel and Web page avenues in 1918, in St Louise, MO, USA.


Photograph by St. Louis Publish-Dispatch file picture/TNS/ABACAPRESS.COM/The Canadian Press

It’s estimated that 500 million folks — or one-third of the world’s inhabitants — grew to become contaminated with the virus and at the least 50 million died.

Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious illness specialist and medical microbiologist on the McGill College Well being Centre (MUHC), mentioned this pandemic peaked over a span of about two years, inflicting mass deaths. There have been three waves.

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Males put on masks in Alberta throughout the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.


CP PHOTO/Nationwide Archives of Canada

Despite the fact that the height exercise declined in 1919 by way of a mix of viral biology, medication and public well being measures, H1N1 “was by no means actually gone”, mentioned Vinh.  It did simmer down, however didn’t essentially finish, he added.

Its progeny continues to exist and flow into to this present day, Vinh mentioned.

Whereas the general public well being measures have been efficient and partly contributed to ending the 1918 pandemic, it was in the end a case of an enormous inhabitants getting contaminated and many individuals dying that led to the top of the Spanish flu, in keeping with Dr. Barry Pakes, York Area medical officer of well being and assistant professor on the College of Toronto.

Within the Eighties, the AIDS pandemic affected tons of of hundreds of individuals worldwide.

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The AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) illness is brought on by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

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HIV is transmitted by way of the change of bodily fluids, equivalent to equivalent to blood, breast milk and sexual interplay through semen and vaginal secretions.

The combat in opposition to HIV dramatically modified when remedies within the type of antiretroviral medication grew to become out there, making HIV a “tolerable sickness” in some elements of the world, mentioned Pakes.


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Marking 40 years because the first circumstances of AIDS reported in U.S.


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The 12 months 1987 proved to be a pivotal one for the AIDS pandemic because the U.S. FDA authorised the primary antiretroviral drug, zidovudine (AZT), as a remedy for HIV.

Despite the fact that it’s now not thought of a pandemic, HIV continues to be a “main international public well being concern”, according to the WHO.

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The UN well being physique estimates that 36.3 million folks have up to now died from HIV. And on the finish of 2020, there have been an roughly 37.7 million folks residing with HIV  — over two-thirds within the African area.


Professors Jean-Claude Chermann (L) and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (R) work with a manipulator on April 25, 1984 within the laboratory of analysis on the AIDS virus of the Institut Pasteur in Paris.


MICHEL CLEMENT/AFP through Getty Pictures

So far, there was no treatment nor vaccine developed for this lethal virus.

Because of efficient prevention and prognosis, HIV an infection has turn into “a manageable power well being situation, enabling folks residing with HIV to steer lengthy and wholesome lives,” WHO says.

Vinh mentioned HIV was introduced underneath management by way of public well being measures and improvement of medicines.

“These developments proceed to this present day”, he added.

Earlier than COVID-19, the world skilled one other coronavirus-related pandemic with the SARS outbreak in 2003.

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The primary circumstances of the unique SARS-CoV virus have been recognized in southern China in November 2002, but it surely wasn’t till mid-March in 2003 when SARS was acknowledged by WHO as a world risk.

In comparison with COVID-19, SARS was much less transmissible however rather more lethal, with a dying price of 10 per cent versus one, Pakes mentioned.


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Toronto hospital constructed with SARS in thoughts


Toronto hospital constructed with SARS in thoughts – Feb 4, 2020

Between November 2002 and July 2003, a complete of 8,098 circumstances of SARS have been detected in 26 nations, with 774 associated deaths, according to the WHO.

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Regardless of testing in animal trials, no SARS vaccines have been authorised to be used in people. Antiviral treatment Ribavirin and corticosteroids have been used extensively to deal with sufferers.

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The unfold of the virus was contained by way of public well being measures, together with quarantining, mask-wearing, journey advisories, contact tracing, exit screening, restrictions on gatherings and different steps taken worldwide.

That have of the worldwide response helped put together us for COVID-19, mentioned Pakes.


STOCK-Toronto,April,2003. Affected person arriving and getting processed at Sunnybrook and Womens School Healt Science Centre throughout a SARS ALERT.


CP Photograph by BORIS SPREMO.


A hospital employee wears a masks throughout Toronto’s SARS outbreak at North York Common Hospital, on Might 29, 2003.


THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Frayer

By July 2003, the worldwide outbreak was introduced underneath management as increasingly more nations have been declared “SARS-free”.

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Since 2004, no new SARS circumstances have been reported wherever on this planet.

Vinh mentioned SARS’ “excessive pathogenicity” — in different phrases, the flexibility to trigger extreme illness — was a contributing issue to “why it extinguished” in much less in than a 12 months.

The 2009-10 influenza pandemic was additionally brought on by the H1N1 virus, making it a spinoff of the unique H1N1 pandemic of 1918.

Thankfully, the worldwide affect of this flu pandemic was a lot much less when it comes to the variety of nations that have been affected, mentioned Vinh.

A vaccine was developed and rapidly deployed throughout the first 12 months of the pandemic.


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Influenza and COVID-19: comparable signs, vastly completely different penalties


Influenza and COVID-19: comparable signs, vastly completely different penalties – Nov 13, 2020

Superior applied sciences, international surveillance of circulating influenza virus strains and antiviral medicines in addition to public well being measures all performed a task in getting the pandemic underneath management, mentioned Vinh.

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Compared to 1918, nations additionally had the benefit of a sophisticated medical system, together with intensive care models (ICUs) and different lifesaving help throughout vital sickness, he added.

“A wide range of components — public well being, medication, vaccination — all of these measures allowed the following pandemic flus to have much less of an affect,” mentioned Vinh.

Despite the fact that most circumstances have been gentle, it’s estimated the 2009 pandemic killed between 100,000 to 400,000 folks worldwide over the course of 1 12 months, according to the WHO.


SAN FRANCISCO – DECEMBER 22: A person receives an H1N1 flu vaccination throughout a clinic on the Invoice Graham Civic Auditorium December 22, 2009 in San Francisco, California.


Photograph by Justin Sullivan/Getty Pictures

What’s subsequent for COVID-19?

Based mostly on the expertise of previous pandemics, full eradication of COVID-19 from the face of the Earth will not be a practical objective, mentioned Vinh.

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‘COVID-19 endgame’: What will it take to go from pandemic to endemic?

“Eradication has solely basically occurred for smallpox and presumably SARS,” he mentioned.

So, realistically our purpose needs to be to regulate the virus and get to the endemic state, Vinh added.

“We should hold SARS-CoV-2 on the forefront of our thoughts.”


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Going ahead, Vinh predicted extra waves of excessive exercise adopted by quiet durations, with native outbreaks right here and there.

Pakes mentioned from the course we’re moving into now, COVID-19 is transitioning to turning into “extra endemic and fewer pandemic,” however added, “I wouldn’t say we’re nearing the top.”

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To watch new variants, testing will stay a vital a part of the pandemic response, mentioned WHO COVID-19 technical lead Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove throughout a press convention this week.

“We have to hold deal with on this virus. We have to have system in place to have the ability to verify the modifications and to grasp what these modifications within the virus imply,” Van Kerkhove mentioned.

“The pandemic is much from over.”


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