It’s Time to Tell a New Story About Coronavirus—Our Lives Depend on It

It’s Time to Tell a New Story About Coronavirus—Our Lives Depend on It

07/14/2020

Author:  Sonia Shah   In:  The Nation

The way we talk about contagion matters. It shapes how societies respond—and whether many of us will survive.

It’s time for a new story, one that more accurately captures the reality of how contagions unfold and why. In this story, pandemics would be cast as both a biological reality and a social phenomenon shaped by human agency. And the coronavirus, if cast as any kind of monster at all, would be a Frankenstein’s monster: a creature of our own making. We, after all, created the world in which SARS-Cov-2 evolved, one in which our industry has swallowed up so much of the planet that microbes from wild animals easily slip into livestock and humans. We created the society of overcrowded prisons and nursing homes staffed by underpaid employees who must work in multiple facilities to make ends meet; in which employers force their workers to labor on meatpacking lines even if they’re sick; in which asylum seekers are crammed into detention centers; and in which people living in hard-hit cities like Detroit lack access to clean water with which to wash their hands………………….

Progress toward this new paradigm has already begun, thanks to a new approach called One Health

Progress toward this new paradigm has already begun, thanks to a new approach called One Health, which considers human health in the context of the health of wildlife, livestock, and ecosystems. As a theoretical approach, One Health has been endorsed by the WHO along with a wide range of high-level agencies in public health and veterinary medicine. It’s been operationalized, on a more limited basis, as well. After a 2005 outbreak of avian influenza, USAID used it to launch the Predict program, which sought to identify viruses that could slip from animals into humans. The New York City–based EcoHealth Alliance used a One Health approach to discover a reservoir of SARS virus in bats, opening up new ways to understand the coronaviruses that afflict humans. And in the Netherlands, it’s been used to tackle the spread of antibiotic-resistant pathogens in people, by addressing the use of antibiotics in livestock.

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