THE common cold (flu), pulmonary tuberculosis, pneumonia, chickenpox, measles, hand-foot-mouth disease, meningococcal meningitis and many more infectious diseases are spread by droplet infection or direct contact. They can be transmitted from one person by a sneeze or cough, handshakes or close contact.
However, numerous awareness programmes have not been effective in educating the public as it was never a “felt need” – scary when antibiotic-resistant organisms (like Mycobacterium tuberculosis for instance) can be transmitted by a cough. Now, though, the Covid-19 pandemic requires hand hygiene, physical distancing and masking, and all these also protect against most infectious diseases that can be spread from person to person.
Most of the infectious diseases mentioned have safe, effective vaccines but humankind has been able to hitherto eradicate only one disease, smallpox. It took about 200 years of Edward Jenner’s vaccine to wipe out smallpox by 1980. Polio has been fought with effective vaccines for 50 to 60 years but we have yet to eradicate the poliovirus from the globe (though we’re very close).
As with the other microorganisms, we would need to co-exist with the latest pandemic causative organism. Washing hands, keeping a safe distance, wearing a mask, and heeding well-referenced information should be the protection mantra.
PROF DR PK RAJESH
Faculty of Medicine, AIMST (Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology) University, Bedong, Kedah