As humanity progresses, more and more people move to crowded cities. The world becomes more technological; we perform more actions using smart cards and touchscreens, shopping and recreational centers, food chains, airports, and more. These confined, air-conditioned spaces, become bigger and more common, and are built to hold ever-increasing amounts of people.
In December 2019 the international media started reporting about a disease that broke out in Wuhan, China. By February 2020 the epidemic’s focal point started shifting to other countries. During March the number of infections started to increase rapidly, spreading to more than 150 countries, mainly in Europe. The disease, spreading rapidly around the world, has infected tens of millions of people and the death of nearly 2 million, accompanied by a severe economic crisis.
Humanity was shocked. The pandemic’s implications struck all of us within weeks. Suddenly, the much repeated script of dozens of apocalyptic movies turned to reality.
It was a terrible blow, but a closer look reveals a much more disconcerting picture. During the past 18 years the world has experienced a considerable number of lethal viral epidemics.
Between 2002-2004 a pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-1- a close relative of the SARS-CoV-2 that caused the current pandemic, caused the SARS pandemic. Over 8,000 people from 29 different countries and territories were infected, and at least 774 died worldwide. The major part of the outbreak lasted about 8 months.
The virus was lethal in around 10% of the cases. As of 2021, there is no cure or protective vaccine for SARS that has been shown to be both safe and effective in humans.
Between 2006-2008 dozens of outbreaks of H5N1, known as avian influenza or “bird flu” were reported worldwide. As of May 2020, the WHO reported a total of 861 confirmed human cases which resulted in the deaths of 455 people since 2003. That is more than 50%!
In 2009 swine flu, an influenza pandemic, hit the world. Some studies estimated that the actual number of cases including asymptomatic and mild cases could be 700 million to 1.4 billion people – 11-21% of the global population of 6.8 billion at the time. The lower value of 700 million is more than the 500 million people estimated to have been infected by the Spanish flu pandemic. The number of lab-confirmed deaths reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) is 18,449.
From 1976 to 2012 the World Health Organization has reported 24 outbreaks of Ebola. The disease has a high risk of death, killing 25% to 90% of those infected, with an average of about 50%. The largest outbreak to date was the epidemic in West Africa, which occurred from December 2013 to January 2016, with 28,646 cases and 11,323 deaths. Other outbreaks in Africa took place in 2017 and 2018.
How were the outbreaks thwarted?
1. SARS disappeared the same as it appeared: immediately and without human intervention. After it vanished, the efforts to find a vaccine were halted.
2. In the end of 2005 the last cases of the avian flu were detected. Until now no vaccine has been developed. Research has shown that a highly contagious strain of H5N1, one that might allow airborne transmission between mammals, can be reached in only a few mutations.
3. The swine flu lasted until August 2010. Until now no vaccine has been developed.
4. Efforts to develop a vaccine to Ebola have started already on 1976, but only on December 2019 did the FDA approve a vaccine by Merck.
The virus’s high infectiousness and lethality, as well as the disease’s short incubation time, are the main factors that limit Ebola outbreaks and prevent them from turning into pandemics. Carriers often die before they get a chance to spread the virus, rendering Ebola a “self-destructing disease”. That said, it cannot be guaranteed that the virus does not develop mutations that will completely alter the infection pattern.
5. In November 2020 Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca announced the development of Covid-19 vaccines. The world sighed in relief.
In December 2020 a new coronavirus variant was found in Britain, carrying 17 mutations compared to the known virus. The mutations might enable faster spread. Ten days later the British Minister of Health announced two cases of an additional mutated strains. According to him, the new mutation is more infection than the one found before.
Disregarding the fact that on average every 11 days a new variant of the virus emerges, it took humanity a whole year to develop a vaccine. Who can guarantee that next time the process will not last 5 years? The HIV virus, the causative agent of AIDS, was first detected in 1981, and according to estimates by the World Health Organization it claimed the lives of some 36 million people by the end of 2012. After all these years and despite endless budgets invested in trying to find a cure or a vaccine, the disease is still incurable. Who can guarantee that the next virus will not be contagious like the swine flu and deadly like Ebola? Who knows if the next virus will not completely paralyze the world economy for periods of time that will not allow recovery?
Analysis of outbreaks in the past two decades shows that a new outbreak is only a matter of time. Decision makers therefore already understand that the right solution is not to find a vaccine or a cure but to reduce the ability of viruses to spread. With this in mind, Greenshift Labs is well positioned, since it offers a wide variety of antimicrobial products at advanced stages of development, products based on various technologies and application modes.