I don’t think the so-called “new normal” will be the normal for a very long time.
During the Black Death in the 1300s, one out of every three Europeans perished. The plague was controlled when people quarantined themselves and burned the corpses. After that, they went outdoors again and gathered in big ceremonies.
It was the crowding effect of the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s that caused the rapid spread of TB. Up to 30% of adults in London acquired the disease. Half of the deaths in the English city of Bristol was caused by TB. It was a dreaded airborne disease. I recall that even in my youth, TB was said only in whispers.
Antibiotics, first used for a TB patient in 1949, have made TB less common and made people less and less scared of it. Vaccines have been a great help, too. Even though 1.5 million worldwide still died of TB in 2018, a sick person in the room did not make us scramble for surgical masks. We did not quarantine anyone who was in the same elevator as a TB patient. We knew we had defense and we could get cured.
In 1918, the so-called Spanish flu lasted 36 months and killed “possibly as high as 100 million.” Scientists believe that the flu virus became deadlier because World War l conditions were conducive to bacterial growth.
Today, the same H1N1 virus can be prevented by flu shots. Those who still get it may spend a few days in a hospital but many can get cured at home with good rest, plenty of fluids, and some over-the-counter medicines. Even during recent flu epidemics, we did not close cities down.
With modern medicine, it has been proven that humankind eventually defeats even a mega killer disease. And also slays paranoia.
Before the beginning of the 20th century, when infections and diseases were hard to control, the life expectancy of males was 46 years old. It was 48 years for women. Today, life expectancy is 78.8 years old.
Antibiotics only became commercially available after 1945. Before antibiotics, 90% of children with bacterial meningitis died. Strep throat was considered a fatal disease. A small cut on the skin would get infected and cause death. Every pregnant woman feared the likely event of death after childbirth.
Smallpox and malaria killed more people than all the wars combined. Vaccines have wiped smallpox off the face of the earth. Malaria has already been eradicated in 111 countries.
All I’m saying is that an anti-COVID vaccine and new early warning and early response systems will soon give us the confidence to reopen the malls. We will troop back to cinemas because extra big sights and sounds are not possible at home. We will book flights because humans have been nomadic for 99 percent of our history.
If the not-so-great men of politics will re-channel their war budgets to medicine and health care, the great men and women of science will be better prepared even when a new nasty virus comes along.
They will make sure we will no longer be interrupted if we want to operate factories and run offices, meet in cafes, shoot movies. We will converge in concerts, and sports events, holy masses, and prayer rallies because we crave the energy in large gatherings. We are social animals. We like the herd. Once more, we will clink our glasses, kiss, hug, and take groufie shots.
Nothing will stop humans from being humans.
10 Facts on Tuberculosis in the World Health Organization website
Achievements in Public Health: 1900-1999: Control of Infectious Diseases in the Center for Disease Control website
Greatest medical discoveries in the past 100 years by Naveed Saleh in the MDLinx website
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
Influenza A vs, B: What to Know in the Medical News Today website
Influenza in the History website
Life before antibiotics (and maybe life after an antibiotic apocalypse) by Toby Sealey in the BBC website
Malaria eradication: is it possible? Is it worth it? Should we do it? By Jenny Liu, Sepideh Modrek, Roly D Gosling, Richard G. Feachem in The Lancet website
State of nature: How modern humans lived as nomads for 99 percent of our history in The Independent website
The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity From Antiquity to the Present by Roy Porter
Treatment of Tuberculosis. A Historical Perspective by John F. Murray, Dean E. Schraufnagel and Philip C. Hopewell in the ATS Journals website
Viruses, Plagues and History: Past, Future, and Present by Michael B.A. Oldstone
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.