Fear of the virus

Samarjit Kambam
We all know Covid-19 and the devastation it has created throughout the world. It has ravaged humankind by taking umpteen lives, destroying many families, increasing number of orphans, crumbling the economy and rendering many jobless.
The woes faced by humankind because of this virus can be considered as cataclysmic. With the virus mutating from the Delta strain to newer and newer strains viz, Omicron and Deltacron, the third wave of the pandemic is on. Some countries have declared that with the outbreak of Omicron.
Most of us consider virus as a microbe having a cell or cells. However, it is a different entity. A virus is made up of only a nucleic acid genome that can be DNA or RNA surrounded by a protein coat. Since they are not capable of synthesising their own proteins and do not have the ability to self-replicate, they need to parasitise the cells of other life forms to do so. They invade cells then hijack the cells’ machinery to promote their replication. Newly formed viruses are then released from the host cell to invade more cells. Biologists do not refer a virus as a living being. A virus is more like an android than a living organism. That is why a virus is considered as a link between the living and the dead.
Viruses have been in this world since billions of years. However, researchers have specified that that the most recent ancestor of all coronavirus is estimated to  have existed as far back as 55 million years ago implying long term co-evolution with bats and avian species. Scientists first identified a human coronavirus in 1965 called B814 which caused common cold. The virus was named coronavirus because of its crown like appearance. Gradually, the number of different strains of coronaviruses increased. The newer strains came out and there were localised outbreaks later followed by outbreak at pandemic level. Mention of outbreaks of the virus on pandemic scale may be made of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrom caused by the coronavirus (SarsCoV-1) which emerged from Southern China in 2002-03 and spread throughout the world at quantifiable speed and the pandemic spanned many countries. Being air-borne, it was the first severe and readily transmissible new disease to emerge in the 21st  century and showed a clear capacity to spread along the routes of international air travel. The pandemic which spread from Wuhan province in Dec 2019 is caused by the coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2) known as Covid-19.
With the virus mutating rapidly, now various strains considered as Virus of Concern (VoC) viz, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Omicron, Deltacron are on the line. We many never know how many newer strains of the virus will keep coming up. Now the strain of the virus Omicron has started ravaging the world and has set its foot in our State also. God knows when the Deltacron (Omicron-like genetic signatures within the Delta genomes) will strike Manipur.
We have watched many zombie apocalypse movies caused due to virus outbreak which are not airborne but caused by bite or scratch. If such kind of pandemic were real, we will get enough means to evade or hide from the undeads carrying the virus as they can be seen or heard. But there is no means to hide from COVID-19 and its ever increasing variants. That’s where things get a lot more complicated. We have the notion that as long as we are not infected, we don’t require to care two hoots about the virus as though we are immune to it. Such complacency on our part is the numero uno reason for getting infected as well as rapid transmission of the virus from one person to another.
Virologists have opined that we are facing a double/triple Covid-19 pandemic caused by its strains which are Delta variant, Omicron and Deltacron. Of late, the rumour mill has been churning out that Omicron is not fatal as it infects only the upper part of the respiratory system and that there is no need to worry with some even saying that the emergence of Omicron is the beginning of the end of Covid-19 pandemic citing that it is a milder strain. However, researchers have put forth that Omicron is highly transmissible and that it’s also better at evading the antibodies triggered by vaccines. Blatant assertions are thrown out haphazardly by many rumour mongers about Omicron making it a source for creating confusion to the common people. The double pandemic of Delta variant and Omicron has been infecting people on a daily basis and the number keeps on increasing. We really don’t know when the Deltacron will begin its rampage in Manipur. So, there is a huge possibility of triple, quadruple, quintuple and so forth pandemics if newer strains of the virus keep on popping up.
No doubt, it is the duty of the Government to provide medical infrastructure to those infected and are in serious condition. However, till date, no Nation has come up with a foolproof system to prevent Covid infection. This is where we the public have a very big role to play. Medical treatment is a different matter but when it comes to prevention, the onus lies on us the public. To prevent from the ever increasing variants of Covid-19 leading to increasing number of pandemics, developing fear of the virus should be our main concern. However smart you are, there is no way to outwit the virus or evade it if you are not afraid of it. In the jungle, a deer has to run faster than a lion to save itself from getting killed. It is the fear of the lion that enables it to run as fast as it can from getting caught. Likewise, we have to fear the virus and its strains. Once we begin to develop that fear inside us, we will automatically begin to distance ourselves from others in public places and follow the Covid-19 appropriate behaviour in tandem with getting vaccinated.
I know you must be thinking that this lousy writer is instilling fear in the public. However, I have this school of thought that I am contributing my bit to the society by instilling fear in the public as I am sanguine this fear of the virus is one efficient tool to prevent from getting infected and will help save many lives. None of us want another lockdown as we have experienced how hard lockdowns were for us with the daily wage workers being hit the hardest. With the 12th Assembly Election just around the corner, fear of the virus is the need of the hour.
The writer can be reached at [email protected]