At home and sick

By: Reyshimar Arguelles

AS GLOBAL temperatures get higher, it has become easier for anyone to get sick. No matter how quickly the medical community makes a revolutionary breakthrough, people will still bow down to viruses, bacteria, and whatever biological abomination that gives discomfort and a reason to stay at home and watch cartoons. There is progress happening in the labs of pharmaceutical companies and university research institutions, but we are still as fragile and vulnerable as the ragdolls that we are.

Disease has always been a part of the world’s history, but it wasn’t until the dawn of civilization that we were able to develop the tools and methods for treating, preventing, and containing it. We can trace the birth of modern medicine as far back as Ancient Greece, although Eastern societies and other cultures unfairly labeled “primitive” had established their own practices, perhaps earlier. In due time, these practices were further developed and medical scholarship was able to produce significant strides against diseases that used to be life-threatening.

The production of vaccines and other preventive drugs have been instrumental in controlling the spread of diseases such as polio, hepatitis, measles, and mumps. Varicella, also known by its innocuous moniker chickenpox, was widespread before the development of a vaccine. The disease itself was considered as deadly as smallpox. According to a World Health Organization position paper on Varicella, pre-vaccine deaths due to the disease occurred at a rate of 3 per 1,000 cases. But vaccinations administered during the early 90s have contained the outbreak of Varicella, which had also been one of the leading causes of infant mortality.

We can all thank the medical community for its undying commitment towards treating illness and coming up with new methods. The task, however, poses even more of a challenge. The extent of global warming’s effects on the planet exacerbates the challenge of limiting the outbreak of disease. In a University of Colorado study, extreme climatic conditions have the potential to worsen existing diseases and produce new threats to human health. Quoted in a Science Daily article, lead research Dr. Cecilia Sorensen points out how “(climate change) can amplify and unmask ecological and socio-political weaknesses and increase the risk of adverse health in socially vulnerable regions.”

A case in point is the outbreak of the Zika virus. The virus is carried by Aedes mosquitoes and it’s known to cause pregnancy complications and congenital malformations in infants. The most recent Zika outbreak was in 2015 in Brazil where it became a confounding problem that “has shrunk research budgets and paralyzed ministries and departments responsible for trying to unravel the mystery,” according to a 2017 Globe and Mail article on the issue. While vaccines are already in the works, the scientific community is inching closer to unraveling the relationship between the spread of Zika and the fact the planet is warming up.

According to Sorensen’s team, Zika outbreaks may very well be the result of extreme El Niño. Warmer temperatures are ideal conditions for disease-carrying mosquitoes to thrive. Indeed, Zika is not the only disease that gets to be amplified. We are also seeing spikes of other threats such as dengue and malaria. As if this weren’t enough, the anti-vaxxer movement, preaching pseudoscience BS, is making the task of reducing fatalities harder than it should it be.

But what is more crucial in this continued narrative of medicine is the need for governments to provide access to quality diagnostic and treatment facilities, in itself the state’s responsibility. The Philippines’ healthcare system comprising of about 1,071 private and 721 public hospitals could barely measure up to international standards. With the passage of the landmark Universal Healthcare Law, medical services will be readily available to a wider public and healthcare services will be functionally improved.

We can only hope that funding will be handled with the utmost care. If our lawmakers will so much as plunder the coffers intended for public health, then consider these numbskulls lower than Zika-carrying mosquitoes.