Is Covid-19 Teaching Us How To Better Deal With The Next Outbreak?

The media is still stirring up the hype about Covid-19, becoming increasingly shrill in their efforts to prove to us that “We’re all gonna DIE!!!” (Well, maybe it isn’t that bad...yet, but the coverage has been learning more towards an apocalyptic viewpoint. Being a curmudgeonly semi-cynic, I’m going to assume it’s to raise viewership and not to actually inform the people.)

Looking at the total number of reported cases of Covid-19 and the number of deaths reported, it looks like the mortality rate is holding somewhere around 3%, about 3 times higher than the estimated mortality rate for influenza.

In light of that there is a ray of hope that something like Covid-19 can be handled better in the future. Zoologist Peter Daszak, a researcher working in China, has been studying the connections between human and wildlife health. Even as this out break is being contained, he says that it won’t be the last one.

A few years back, Daszak was working with the World Health Organization, plotting out what the next global pandemic could look like, when he and some other scientists came up with the idea of “Disease X.” Disease X would hit this epidemiological sweet spot: It would transmit easily from person to person, and it would be deadly, but not too deadly. Even though scientists like him knew this sort of virus was coming, the world didn’t get ready, not soon enough.


We’re going to get bigger pandemics, and they’re going to happen more often. But if we pay close attention to what’s happening right now, next time could be different.

Daszak says what needs to be done is to search out the viruses out there in the wild, classify them and their DNA, and develop tests to identify those who become infected and create the vaccines against the infectious viruses. As he states, the viruses are out there and the reason we’re seeing more of them is because or our interactions with the diverse wildlife surrounding us, particularly as we move into areas where wildlife lives. Waiting until a virus crosses over into humans and spreads through the population may mean it’s already too late.

Considering preventative measures can be less expensive than trying to contain an outbreak once a virus is loose in the population, it is something we should consider. Seeing how diseases like Ebola, SARS, and MERS kill, and seeing how others like Covid-19 can spread before someone infected with it is symptomatic, a disease with the characteristics of Ebola and Covid-19 are a nightmare. Being prepared ahead of time can short-circuit any future outbreaks. With that in mind, the question becomes whether we will make the effort to do so or choose to ignore it because it’s too “icky” to ponder?