From the highly infectious Spanish Flu in 1918 to the Covid pandemic of current times, India has undergone several outbreaks of diseases that claimed scores of human lives, giving a severe jolt to the socio-economic contour of demography. On March 11 three years ago, the world was officially in the new age of pandemic with COVID-19. The devastating impact of the Covid catastrophe needs no mention as it posed a severe menace to the existence of human beings, bringing the world to a standstill. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and the Covid’s toll is still on with its repercussions on health engulfing many people.
A pandemic is an outbreak of disease which spreads across the world, affecting more lives of people than an endemic. COVID-19, which is reported to have emerged from China’s Wuhan, has hit every society on the earth grievously. The rampant spread of the coronavirus around the world forced people to go under lockdown– perceived to be the only method to check the spread of Covid pandemic.
However, the repercussion of lockdown and social distancing — sociologically appeared as a new form of untouchability — in India had a cascading impact on different walks of life including social, economical, political, educational, agricultural and psychological levels. People are still living with deep scars of migrant workers’ scourge and scary scenes of graveyards and crematorium.
India has had its past pandemic and witnessed many outbreaks of disease such as SARS, Swine Flu and Plague, among others. Here are some major outbreaks that hit the country badly in the past:
Spanish Flu: It was caused by the deadly strain of avian influenza, which was spread owing to World War One. Being a part of World War I, Indian soldiers became the carrier of the disease and it spread across the country killing many lives.
Cholera Pandemic: Vibrio Cholerae, a type of bacteria, is considered to be the cause of Cholera pandemic across the globe. It also wreaked havoc in Asian countries, impacting Bangladesh and India.
Smallpox: Variola major or Variola minor was considered to be the prime cause of Smallpox spread in India. As per report, nearly 60 percent of the Smallpox cases were found in India with more virulent virus strain in comparison with other countries. With concerted efforts of government and other stakeholders, India got free from the curse of Smallpox in March 1977.
Surat Plague: The pneumonic Plague hit Surat in 1994 that made people leave the city in huge numbers. Fake news and misinformation cause the situation to jump from frying pan to fire. The mass migration from Surat spread the disease across the country. The unhygenic condition, open drains and poor sewage system triggered the outbreak of Plague.
SARS: SARS was recognised as the first severe transmissible disease after the 21st century. It was a severe respiratory disease similar to Covid-19. The mutation of the virus made people vulnerable, which was spread through coughing and sneezing.
Dengue and Chikungunya Outbreak: Dengue and Chikungunya, mosquito-borne diseases, affected many people in India. The stagnation of water is the safe haven for the breeding of such mosquitos. Many people have lost their lives owing to Dengue and Chikungunya in the country.
Swine Flu: Swine Flu, which is caused by H1V1, is a type of influenza that affected people in Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Telangana and claimed many lives in 2014.
Encephalitis: Lots of children died of Japanese Encephalitis in UP’s Gorakhpur in 2017. Mosquito bites were factored in to spread this disease.
India has gone through a series of disease outbreaks and battled with the illness bravely. Successive governments and people have played a major role to check the nefarious designs of viruses and bacteria. Such bacteria and viruses will always live together with human life. They will keep coming and posing a threat to the existence of human beings. All stakeholders including governments, scientists, doctors, researchers, civilians and global agencies will have to work together to face such challenges in future. The recent corona catastrophe has given a lesson to the world, now everyone should keep in mind how to handover the world to the next generation.