In this Issue:
Our Topic: COVID-19
What's a Pandemic?
What is a Coronavirus?
How Infection Works.
The Fate of the World
What's the Solution?
The world is on high alert right now and we have good reason to be concerned.
On March 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially announced COVID-19 to be a global pandemic, kick-starting governments around the world to take action on curbing the spread of the virus.
Social distancing has proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak. This means making changes in your everyday routines to minimize close contact with others.
In this edition of What We Know, we’re delving into the disarray of the latest coronavirus scare to help make sense of it all and discuss long term solutions.
What does a pandemic mean, exactly?
A declaration of a pandemic doesn't mean pandemonium.
It has nothing to do with changes to the characteristics of a disease, and doesn't require any mass scale of destruction. In reality, it's actually a loosely-defined term associated with concerns over the geographic spread of illness.
According to the WHO, a pandemic is declared when a new disease, for which people do not have immunity, spreads around the world beyond expectations.
Concerned by both the alarming levels of spread and severity, and more importantly by the distressing levels of inaction by world leaders in response to the outbreak, the WHO initiated the declaration to spur communities into action globally.
So, What Is A Coronavirus?
Should We Really Be Scared?
The coronavirus gets its name from the crown-like spikes on its surface (“corona” in Latin translates to “crown”). The genus is composed of at least three groups that cause mild to severe enteric (affecting the intestines), respiratory, or systemic disease (meaning it affects the entire body, like the flu, rather than a single organ or body part). Symptoms of a coronavirus include a runny nose, cough, sore throat, and fever. Some are mild, such as the common cold, while others are more likely to lead to pneumonia. A few other well-known coronaviruses are SARS and MERS.
The most recent strain of coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, that has swept the globe at alarming rates was first discovered only a few short months ago in December 2019 when the first cases of a mysterious illness was reported in Wuhan, China. It has since spread to more than 140 countries.
As the number of coronavirus infections approaches 100,000 people worldwide, researchers are racing to understand what makes it spread so easily.
The COVID-19 virus appears to be spreading easily and sustainably throughout communities. Once infected, people who are the sickest (exhibiting clear symptoms) are the most contagious, but spread is also possible before people show any symptoms at all.
According to the WHO and the Centre for Disease Control, coronaviruses typically spread through direct contact with an infected person. It happens when an infected person coughs or sneezes, spreading droplets into the air where people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) can breathe it in. (These droplets can get into the nose and mouth of people nearby or be inhaled in their lungs.) It’s also possible, though less likely, for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.
People of all ages can be infected by COVID-19. Older people, and people with
pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease), appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill.
This is why “social distancing” and hand-washing have become the key factors in preventing the spread of the virus going forward.
How Infection Works.
Viruses are the smallest of all the microbes.
Microbes have inhabited the earth for billions of years and may be the earliest life forms on the planet. They live in every possible ecological niche—soil, water, air, plants, rocks, and animals—even in extreme environments, such as hot springs, deep ocean thermal vents, and Antarctic ice. By sheer mass, microbes are the earth’s most abundant life form and are highly adaptable to external forces. From the moment we’re born, microbes begin to colonize our bodies on every surface, including skin, gut, and mucous membranes. In fact, our bodies actually contain at least 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells.
Microbes in the human gastrointestinal tract alone comprise at least 10 trillion organisms, representing more than 1,000 species. Many microbes help prevent disease-causing organisms from invading our bodies, synthesize vitamins, break down food into absorbable nutrients, and stimulate our immune systems.
Others make us sick and can even kill us.
Viruses are one of five major categories of infectious microbes along with bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and helminths. Ranging in size from about 20 to 400 nanometers in diameter, viruses are simply packets of nucleic acid, surrounded by a protein shell and sometimes fatty materials called lipids. Billions can fit on the head of a pin.
Outside a living cell, a virus is a dormant particle, they lack the raw materials necessary for reproducing. Upon entering a host cell, however, viruses burst into action, hijacking the cell’s structures to make copies of itself rapidly.
As the virus begins to multiply, this is when infection occurs. Viruses make us sick by killing our cells or disrupting how our cells function.
In response to infection, your immune system springs into action. White blood cells, antibodies, and other mechanisms go to work to rid your body of the foreign invader. The symptoms of an infection we experience, fever (heat inactivates many viruses), malaise, headache, rash, are actually the result of your immune system marshaling antibodies and other cells to target the invader trying to eliminate the infection from the body.
A Virus Can Change the
Fate of the World
Researchers have identified two possible scenarios as potential origins for COVID-19:
1. The virus evolved into its current state through natural selection, already capable of causing severe illness, in a non-human host and then jumped to humans.
This is how previous coronavirus outbreaks have developed, with humans contracting the virus after direct exposure to civets (SARS) and camels (MERS).
2. A version of the virus not capable of causing sickness jumped from an animal host into humans and then evolved to its current state, making it capable of causing severe illness within the human population.
Some coronaviruses from pangolins (armadillo-like mammals found in Asia and Africa), for example, have very similar structure to the one currently hitting our species, and it's possible a human may have contracted the virus from contact with pangolins (the most heavily trafficked animal in the world), either directly or through an intermediary host such as civets or ferrets.
The reality is that any changes that create new intersections between microbes and people pave the way for disease-causing agents to enter our species.
One important change that has put us at risk is the global human population explosion from about 1.6 billion people in 1900 to nearly 8 billion today. More people, grouped together in cities, globally trading goods, and traveling more extensively, makes us increasingly vulnerable to spreading dangerous microbes.
Almost 2 million passengers, travel daily by aircraft to international destinations. Transit times of people and goods are often shorter than the incubation periods of infection, this means that carriers of disease can arrive at their destination before signs of an infection are even detected.
The second major factor in spreading diseases is deforestation.
Clear cutting forests for agriculture and urbanization is leading us into closer contact with places that may harbour dangerous new microbes. Massive expansion of roads and human settlements has created transition zones filled with opportunities for contact with potential disease-causing agents.
A growing body of scientific evidence shows that the felling of tropical forests creates optimal conditions for the spread of deadly diseases, particularly as non-human primates and other animals increasingly come into contact with people from habitat loss, hunting, and wildlife trafficking.
What's the Solution?
We have to stay at home. Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:
The average human cough forces out thousands of tiny droplets of saliva, about 3,000 in a single cough, and some of them fly out of the mouth at speeds up to 50 miles per hour.
Sneezing is even worse! As many as 40,000 droplets are released with a single sneeze— some of which rocket out at speeds greater than 200 miles per hour—and the vast majority of the droplets are less than the width of a human hair - that's so tiny they cannot be seen with the naked eye. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the virus. To stop the spread of the virus, we have to eliminate the risk of coughing and sneezing on each other, and the best way to do that is to keep our social distance.
We have to plant more trees, stop over-extensive logging, and end wildlife trafficking completely.
The grisly reality is that severe viral infections and diseases spread from human actions and human behaviour. As social creatures, continually expanding our dominion across the planet, shaking up the earth’s long-standing ecosystems and atmosphere, and gathering in ever-expanding metropolitan landscapes, we’re causing massive harm to our planet and ultimately putting our own species at risk.
Now You're In the Know:
Since the early 2000s, the world has witnessed the outbreak of several diseases transmitted from animals to humans, and yet we still find ourselves woefully unprepared to address the root cause of these crises.
But we're all in this together. So we must come together to enact effective change.
Staying home is protecting yourself, but it's also about protecting each other. If you're going to spread anything during this time of isolation, spread hope, spread knowledge, spread help, spread humour and compassion.
Stay calm. Wash your hands. And plant more trees.
Now you're in the know to take action and join us in creating positive change.
So until next time...
At Prime Earth, preventing biodiversity loss and restoring healthy ecosystems is a TOP PRIORITY. We work hard to:
educate people about the connections between humanity and our natural world to create more compassionate global citizens;
raise awareness about the plight of our endangered non-human primate cousins - working with local and international groups on conservation policies and action strategies to stop wildlife trafficking in Southeast Asia;
plant trees to restore rainforest habitats and tackle climate change, and;
connect youth with nature with outreach activities that make our world more inclusive, accepting, and understanding.
We're a small group of dedicated volunteers with ambitious plans to make the world a better place, and we’re tackling global issues head on with initiatives that support long term solutions to stop the spread of infectious disease and create a more sustainable way of life for people and our planet.
We rely on donations to keep us going and we're dedicated to success because we know that change is possible by rolling up our sleeves and getting the job done.
We know now's not the time to join us at events or book workshops, we'd prefer you stayed at home where it's safe. But fear not, there are still many ways help us build a more compassionate world:
This just in!
Our Gibby's Kids Kit Activity Books are now available for download without a Gibbon Guardians Membership! Welp! LOTS of parents are suddenly home with their kiddos and looking for things to do...
May we suggest a winning combo to keep kids busy and turn the 'chore' of home learning into oodles of monkey-mazing fun!
Now that everyone's committed to staying home for a while, it's a great time to give your child a boost learning super cool things beyond the usual classroom math and reading, while keeping them entertained doing something that they love or are passionate about.
With one simple click, you can get instant access to 40 pages of downloadable ready-to-print pages jam packed with fun, nature-themed educational puzzles and colouring pages that will keep your youngster entertained for hours.
It's just $6.00. PLUS! We use the funds raised to plant a tree in YOUR honour, AND protect endangered apes! It’s totally worth it!
Click to get the workbook your youngsters will love here.