Infectious diseases have always been one of the major threats to human societies. Throughout history, humanity has witnessed numerous outbreaks and pandemics that had a critical impact on various states’ evolution. They resulted in millions of deaths and required decades for communities to recover. For this reason, these diseases have always been given much attention. However, the evolution of human thought and science promoted the shift in people’s mentalities and their visions of the disease, how it should be opposed, and methods to treat patients. The mostly religious approaches were replaced with the scientific ones to ensure better recovery. However, some methods were similar as they demonstrated their effectiveness and positive impact on the situation. In such a way, by comparing and contrasting responses to pandemics at different periods of time, it is possible to trace the evolution of human thought and science.
Regardless of numerous advances in medicine and pharmaceutics, the modern world still suffers from numerous infectious diseases. However, the COVID–19 pandemic became one of the severest challenges of the new age. Humanity faced the problem similar to those it had to overcome during its darkest ages. For this reason, it was essential to create a new approach to controlling the disease and ensuring the world could overcome the crisis. It required the use of the old experiences generated during the previous pandemics and the integration of new knowledge to ensure the increased effectiveness of new measures. At the same time, the similarity in the diseases’ spread and their severity required collaborative and unified work to slow down the speed of their spread and ensure populations are safe.
The current COVID–19 pandemic has become a critical problem for the modern world because of several factors. First, the virus triggering the development of the disease has an extremely virulent nature. It means that there is a high risk of being infected after social contact with a patient. Second, the virus continues to mutate, meaning it acquires new features and might become more dangerous for individuals and require more complex treatment. Finally, COVID–19 triggers the development of numerous diseases, adverse conditions, and complications that might precondition the death of a patient. For this reason, humanity faced a critical challenge similar to previous pandemics. It introduced the necessity to give attention to past methods and responses and ensure they are effective in current conditions to save thousands of lives.
A plague can be viewed as an extremely severe infectious disease with specific characteristics. First of all, its three forms include bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic plague. All these forms are followed by fever and cause severe damage to the body if untreated. In the Middle Ages, the pandemic known as the Black Death resulted in around 200 million deaths globally and promoted radical social shifts in the world. It can be perceived as an essential step towards an improved understanding of the nature of the disease, methods to control it, and prevention. Later, some new outbreaks occurred, which helped to select the most effective approaches to address the issue. For this reason, the modern strategy of struggling against the COVID 19 pandemic can be compared to previous frameworks to determine similarities and differences.
Isolation and quarantine can be viewed as one of the most ancient and effective responses to a pandemic. For instance, the pamphlet of an anonymous author describing the outbreak of 1665 speaks that closing infected houses was one of the standard practices used in that period. Observations helped to determine that isolation of patients with first symptoms might slow down the spread of the disease and protect others. For this reason, a similar practice was used in many other situations. The outbreak of plague, which occurred in the region of Oran, Algeria, in 2003, was managed similarly as it was an attempt to limit the access to infected individuals and areas.
The restrictive measures accepted during the COVID–19 pandemic were focused on destroying the major ways of the infection’s spread and ensuring patients with the disease are isolated from others. Statistics show that it became one of the most effective methods as China introduced the severest quarantine measures and managed to avoid the appearance of new cases. At the same time, the lack of control and milder measures created the basis for the occurrence of new patients because of their contact with the infected persons. In such a way, isolation became a similar measure used to control various pandemics and demonstrated its effectiveness.
Prevention could be viewed as one of the critical responses to the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. However, the effectiveness of this activity depends on the level of understanding linked to the virus and its nature. For instance, for an extended period of time, the plague’s carrying agent was unknown, which resulted in the reduced effectiveness of the attempts to control the disease. A better understanding of the problem resulted in its better management. For instance, the outbreak of 1894 in China was less devastating because of the effective preventive measures. Finally, the COVID–19 outbreak was addressed using the existing science and investigation facilities. It helped to determine the better ways to prevent the further virus spread by using vaccination and social isolation. In such a way, prevention can be viewed as an important response to the pandemic, while the approaches to this activity were different.
Analyzing the Causes
Another essential feature of the recent coronavirus outbreak is the necessity to understand its major causes and sources of the infection clearly. The World Health Organization and numerous research agencies focused their efforts on analyzing the virus to determine its origin. It became a critical step toward a better understanding of the virus and the creation of an effective vaccine against it. At the same time, the previous plague pandemics were characterized by reduced attention to the cause and source of the problem. First of all, the disease was not new to humanity, meaning it was not critical to analyze the significant symptoms and factors leading to its emergence. Moreover, the first plague pandemics occurred when the level of science was too low to investigate it. As a result, the virus was mainly unresearched till the new age, when numerous efforts were made to protect society from it.
Comparing the responses, it is possible to discuss the approach to treatment. As stated previously, the plague emerged at times when science was at a low level. For this reason, doctors of that period, such as during the Middle Ages, had to use non-scientific methods and rituals to help patients. It implied prayers, amulets, herbs, or phlebotomy to purify the blood. In numerous cases, it was useless and worsened the situation. Later, with the emergence of virology, more effective methods and vaccination were introduced. It helped to alter the approach to managing plague and protecting people. The COVID–19 outbreak was treated differently because of the numerous medicines available for therapists at the moment. However, their effectiveness was low as it was possible to treat only conditions triggered by the virus, not the virus itself. As a result, researchers had to pass the same way as their predecessors to find a practical approach to treating the disease. Vaccination became the result of these attempts and is expected to protect society from new challenges or virus mutations.
Comparing the selected diseases, it is possible to compare the scope of social responses to them. Both plague and COVID–19 outbreaks can be viewed as a severe social upheaval resulting in specific changes in people’s thinking and behaviors. For instance, the plague pandemic of 1665 promoted the reconsideration of social relations within groups towards the increased importance of the middle and lower class, while the role of feudalists and the church was reduced. It revitalized relations and helped the world to recover comparatively fast. COVID–19 pandemic is linked to severe shifts in societies. The social isolation and restrictions contributed to the increased importance of social media, remote work, and delivery services. As a result, communities became more flexible and resistant to new challenges, which became a critical factor in helping to struggle against the pandemic and overcome its negative aftermath.
Religion is another critically important sphere that should be mentioned regarding pandemics. The previous outbreaks of plague were mainly associated with faith and viewed as the divine scourge. As a result, most actions to struggle against the disease were agreed with the church and priests, who were viewed as the most important persons. However, their helplessness and inability to treat people promoted disillusionment and recognition of the necessity to promote science to ensure humanity realizes the nature of the disease and can resist it. As a result, the pandemic preconditioned the radical reconsideration of the church’s role in society and its impact on people’s everyday life.
As for the current COVID–19 outbreak, the situation is different. The modern world is characterized by the reduced influence of the church. People remain religious and have their own ideas of God; however, they realize the scientific nature of things. For this reason, the outbreak was not associated with any religious ideas or issues. On the contrary, human activity, some mistakes, and inappropriate behaviors were viewed as the primary cause of the emergence and spread of the disease. For this reason, from this perspective, the response to the pandemic was different, as people focused on the scientific side of the problem and the necessity to address it by using available advances in technologies.
COVID–19 and plague outbreaks can be linked to specific environmental factors and sanitation. Thus, the previous epidemics and pandemics of plague can be associated with extremely poor hygiene and disregard of the significant norms. The cities did not have appropriate stocks, the sanitation was poor, and citizens did not have a chance to care for them. As a result, these conditions contributed to establishing a favorable environment for the further spread of infectious diseases, including plague. Analyzing the coronavirus outbreak, another factor should be mentioned. Following the official version, the virus was transmitted from a bat eaten by a person. It raises questions about food security and living conditions affecting populations and their food choices. At the same time, one of the possible responses included the necessity to prohibit such actions and ensure illegal trading is punished. The same situation was observed regarding plague outbreaks when much attention to sanitation was devoted to ensuring no infections would occur.
Altogether, both the COVID–19 outbreak and previous plague pandemics became severe challenges for the world. They promoted radical changes in societies, their evolution, and their functioning. At the same time, the level of threat associated with these diseases and the high risk of fatal outcomes impacted the introduction of specific responses to regulate the disease and avoid its further spread. There are some similarities that should be outlined, such as isolation and quarantine as the central tools to avoid new patients and focus on sanitation and prevention. At the same time, there are several differences linked to technological progress and the differences in people’s mentalities. The role of church and faith was reduced. At the same time, science and the healthcare sector were given the top priority as the central institutions necessary to promote positive change and help communities to survive. Successes in these spheres helped to overcome the challenge and move forward.
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