‘If humans do not learn from past mistakes, more viruses will attack’ Says Dr Samsul Ali
Numaligarh: The COVID-19 pandemic has now crossed the bar of 2.5 million cases globally. Novel coronavirus or COVID-19 also began like other pandemics and outbreaks before. Scientists have said that the virus’s original host was almost certainly a bat, as was the case with Ebola, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) migrated to humans more than a century ago from a chimpanzee. Influenza also jumped from wild birds to pigs to humans.
But the problem is not with the animals, scientists say, it is with humans. The global illegal wildlife trade is to be blamed. Wild animals have always had viruses in their bodies. But a huge global wildlife trade, agricultural intensification, deforestation and urbanization are bringing people closer to wild animals, giving their viruses more of what they need to infect the humans.
Dr Samsul Ali, an expert in zoonotic disease and an eminent veterinarian, said, “COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease and its link has been established via bats. Some scientists also say that it spread from pangolins. This zoonotic disease had potential to become a pandemic and it has turned into a pandemic now, spreading across the world and infecting millions of people within a very short span of time. The Spanish flu in 1918 was also linked to be avian (bird). Human influenza virus is also similar to bird flu and swine flu. Not to forget about the deadly Nipah virus (NiV) epidemic which occurred recently.”
Dr Ali further added, “The bell is ringing and telling us about the coming bad days. If we humans don’t control our greed now, we will see the worst. All the zoonotic diseases have a potential to go pandemic in new forms and the reason is simple, we humans have neither immunity to fight against these viruses nor any specific treatment is ready for humans. We humans are breaking the barrier of nature, exploiting and getting dependent on wild animals. Since the day of our evolution, wild animals always tend to maintain a safe distance from humans. When we break this barrier of nature, viruses will enter the human body and mutations will happen, giving new shapes and forms to these zoonotic viruses. And it will continue to cause similar situations of epidemics and pandemics in the coming days.”
“The wildlife trade is one of the major factors for initiating this stage of pandemic, where the entire human race is suffering now,” he added.
But human beings have still not learnt their lesson it seems. There have been cases of wild animals roaming freely in human populated areas as people are staying indoors due to the lockdown. Assam and other north-eastern States have also witnessed a number of incidents where wild animals were sighted in dense human populated areas. Even some rare wild species were also reported roaming in places with no past history of such species being sighted in those places. It may seem great that these animals are accessing the territory that originally belonged to them. But there have been many cases of human brutality where people killed these animals during the lockdown. There are reports of such brutal killings of wild animals in Nagaland where four locals killed more than three barking deer, a large Indian civet cat and other wild animals. In a similar case, a leopard was brutally killed by locals in Golaghat district of Assam recently. The villagers not only killed the leopard but extracted different parts and meat from its body. A video from Arunachal Pradesh also went viral on social media where three locals were seen holding a huge dead king cobra. The three people said that they would have to feast on the snake because of scarcity of food items during the lockdown. These cases are only the tip of the iceberg, it is obvious that many similar incidents of killing wildlife went unreported during the last days of the ongoing lockdown.
It is now very clear that almost all the past and present pandemics are caused by wild animals, but animals are not to be blamed. Humans alone are responsible for this. But it is never too late. On this Earth Day, let’s take a pledge to respect nature’s barrier. Refraining ourselves from exploiting Mother Nature and wildlife is the only key for survival of the human race on planet earth.