Nothing common about common cold

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The season of the ‘common cold’ is upon us. But this is not all! As if this harried country of ours did not have enough problems to contend with as it is, newer and newer varieties of maladies keep popping up out of the blue. There is the dreaded ‘swine flu’ that again appears to be rearing its ugly head in some parts of the country. Earlier, it was avian influenza or ‘bird flu’ said to have emanated in some other continent but making inroads all over. The possibility of the spread of the virus to other regions of the world is accentuated by the phenomenon of the seasonal migration of birds that has already started.

Experts keep on hinting at the danger of one of these maladies developing into a ‘pandemic’ with terrifying results. All one can do is hope for the best and pray that the worst fears of the ‘experts’ don’t come true. Still the matter can hardly be taken lightly. Without sounding paranoid, one cannot help having the queasy feeling that man’s regrettable tendency to interfere with the laws of nature is now coming home to roost. Not all that long ago, the United Kingdom was seized with the foot and mouth disease among bovines (not to be confused with the ‘foot in mouth disease’ common among our liberal intellectuals). What with one thing or the other, humankind can hardly get away from pestilence, either natural or man-made.

It may be recalled that some years earlier there was the scare of the possible large-scale outbreak of the deadly respiratory disease known as SARS. Mercifully, that news is no longer on the front pages. The World Health Organisation had, then, given out that their research had confirmed that SARS was indeed caused by the ‘corona virus’: one that also causes the common cold. Brings to mind the cold fact that – the strides made in the field of medicine notwithstanding – cure for the ‘common cold’ has yet to be discovered!

The reader will no doubt recall the hullabaloo, some summers back, at the completion of the ‘human genome’ – whatever that means in layman terms. In all seriousness, what does the whole thing signify in the most general terms? All it leads to is the truism that, try as he might, man is in no position to overtake nature. Nature will always remain a good step ahead!

Not so far back, there was a news item prominently carried by the international media to the effect that the American Drug Agency had approved a ‘treatment’ for common cold “that would reduce the period of the ailment by two days”. After years of intensive research, the best the world’s experts could come up with was a drug not to cure the common cold but merely to curtail the period of the symptoms!

One can hardly deny that giant strides are evident in the field of science and technology over the past many years. Medical science, likewise, has come a long way. Several ailments, once considered fatal, have been brought within the gambit of curable diseases. On the negative side, the outbreak of such deadly ailments as Aids, SARS and ‘swine flu’ added to the re-influx  of some dreaded diseases that had long been written off as virtually extinct – like small pox, tuberculosis and even malaria –  continue to present a cause for serious concern.

What with the re-emergence of some old deadly diseases coupled with the appearance of new varieties, humankind is, no doubt, confronted with serious challenges. Man would, as a consequence, be well advised to re-order his priorities in order to be able to cope. In particular, he would do well to depend on the bounties of nature. Among other things, attempts to influence nature through the use of artificial means, like strong pesticides and ‘cultured’ seeds, need to be eschewed. Unless this is done, the future does not appear to be overly bright.

The Article First Appered In The Express Tribune

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