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Making Sense Of The Pandemic

By unraveling the stories of past pandemics we can begin to better understand our future, and prepare for what it holds in store for us

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The word pandemic is derived from the Greek words ‘pan’ which means ‘all’ and ‘demos’ which means ‘people’. So basically Covid-19 is obviously a pandemic. Over the last 50 years, more than 300 infectious diseases have emerged, appearing in places where they have never been seen before.

The book Pandemic — Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond by Sonia Shah begins with startling facts and revelations about pandemics across hundreds of years ago. 

Shah, a science journalist, has strong credentials as a science author. She is the prize winning author of The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move, and contributes regularly in prestigious journals like the NYT, The Wall Street Jounal and Scientific American. Her talk on, “Three Reasons We Still Haven’t Gotten Rid of Malaria”, has been viewed by more than a million people. 

Her book makes a disturbing but honest point — thanks to the scientific progress made by the world today the and technological knowhow we have managed to put a lid on the Covid-19 pandemic compared to previous pandemics, but we cannot control it as much as we would want to. The bitter truth is that we want the infection to stop spreading, but we are failing in that endeavour.

Years before the sudden arrival of the Covid-19 virus, 90 per cent of epidemiologists across the world predicted that one of the viruses would cause a deadly pandemic sometime in the next two generations. It was impossible to predict the emergence of the corona virus and it remains impossible to predict which pathogen will cause the next global outbreak. 

By unraveling the stories of the past pandemics we can begin to better understand our future, and hence the need to prepare for what it holds for us.

Shah interweaves history, reportage, and personal narrative to explore the origins of pandemics. The book provides urgent lessons for our present day scenario. Tracing the journey of this pandemic, Shah has written about the beginning of the development of the virus, as well as the blame game scenario. She has commented on corruption as well. Whilst we remain locked in our homes to avoid contracting the disease, we also need to stop the spread of this deadly virus since we do not yet have a standard cure for it as well as any meaningful understanding of it. We need to track and stop the next contagion.

Using facts and figures Shah has given a solid structure to the book. The narrative is extremely captivating and leads us to introspection and retrospection. During these trying times the loss of loved ones is the worst experience for anyone and everyone who has lost someone due to the corona virus. 

The book is very informative and detailed in its scope. It is very timely too as Shah lends a certain tone to it which is very realistic, even though it brings out the negativity which humanity has caused to some extent.