COVID-19 an Invincible Army

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Aug 3 2021
Columns COVID-19 an Invincible Army

The deadly, despicable, intractable, unvanquishable COVID-19 and its numerous variants - more especially the Delta variant - seems never nearer leaving mankind alone. The dread fat-enclosed–protein seems to be spreading all over the world in surging waves. 

A country locks itself down, shuts down its people’s normal lives and then with infections and death abating, opens up. Only to be threatened again. One now wonders whether COVID-19  will ever leave us, Earthlings. We used to say ‘When will this end?’  Our refrain now is ‘Will it ever end?’ 

There have been infections that swept the world periodically and decimated populations like the Black Death worldwide which was worst in Europe in the mid 1300s. It was bubonic plague that caused the death of one third of certain country’s populations.

Rampant and continuous infections

Those within living memory - say 80 years – were first the malaria epidemic in the 1930s. The Anopheles Mosquito was the criminal and breeding grounds were stagnant water, even slow flowing streams. The disease produced shivering preceding high temperatures resulting in ennui and lack of energy along with bloated stomachs covering expanded spleens. Malaria attacked most parts of Ceylon, more particularly the Dry Zone. My family lived in Peradeniya in the 1930s and I was told later that a brother died during the epidemic making it imperative to move away from that area and so my family shifted to Kandy where I was born.

As mentioned, the North Central Province that had been named ‘The Granary of the East’ in times of the Anuradhapura Kingdom, became a near deserted stretch of forest. Men were unable to carry out their cultivation of rice fields and chenas, and so resulted decimation of populations and exodus of people south to healthier climes. The forests were deserted just as Leonard Woolf describes the village in the jungle being engulfed in the fast encroaching forest with Menika – elder daughter of Silindu - the sole resident along with the Vedarala in a nearby house.

Mercifully DDT was discovered as an efficient repellant to the mosquito and it being soon after World War II with Lanka still a colony of the British Empire, the Brits sprayed our jungles and vulnerable places. We got rid of the pandemic of malaria and it is now almost non- existent, thank goodness. But we have another type of mosquito that is playing havoc in the country – species of Aedes mosquito. I mean here dengue which is partly blamable to our people who are careless with garbage and gardens. Scrupulous elimination of breeding places can stymie the mosquito in its path of infection.       

Smallpox never invaded our island in considerable numbers unlike  in India which suffered greatly from the disfiguring disease. We oldies remember the scratching with a sort of pen first held onto a flame, which we received when in school. It was the smallpox vaccine; the discovery of which has a very interesting tale to it, with British Edward Jenner (1749-1823) injecting a boy with cow pox sand discovering a vaccine for smallpox in 1798. He is the first to introduce vaccines to combat disease. Now smallpox is knocked off the register of human diseases.  

Remember the anti typhoid injection we used to get long ago – say about 6 decades ago. It was a double dose and your arm ached for at least three days after it was injected. Inevitable fever was another suffered side effect. It was also called enteric fever and prior to the discovery of antibiotics by Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) in 1928, the remedy was bed rest and very light meals since it was a disease of the bowels. I had a sister who had it in the early 1940s  and was in a hospital bed in the paying ward with a wicker ‘gadget’ over her preventing her from moving her body. Her hair all dropped but she got a luxuriant growth thereafter.  

In the very late 1940s a scare went around island wide. It was poliomyelitis that was stalking mostly young children. I was in the school boarding then and we were directed to gargle morning, noon and night from a huge jug of dissolved potassium permanganate. It was a scary time as polio was a paralysing disease which needed treatment by insertion in a ‘lung machine.’ Dr. Jonas Edward Salk (1914-1995) and others mercifully and tirelessly worked to obtain a preventive for this deadly disease which attacked the 32nd President of the US – Franklin  Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) so much so that World War II speeches to the nation were delivered by him in a wheelchair, hiding the fact he was disabled. Once his disability was known, he appeared in the wheel chair like at the meeting of Churchill, Stalin and him at the end of WW II. Tuberculosis was another quite common disease that took away so many young persons. A study of English literature indicates how many poets and writers died of TB.

But never has the world seen a more virulent, persistent and widespread infection as that caused by the 

Covid-19 virus. No wonder it is thought it is a made, very potent organism that escaped from the Chinese Wuhan lab and spread across the length and breadth of our world.

– Kumari

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Aug 3 2021

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