Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, April 21, 2003

Humankind Is Able to Conquer SARS: Commentary

Along with the development of science and technology, human beings of today have got the upper hand in their struggle against serious illness, we have every reason to believe that humankind entirely has the ability to finally conquer atypical pneumonia.


"It is an unprecedented case!", said David Heymann, a WHO (World Health Organization) executive director in charge of infectious disease when he described the speed of decoding the atypical pneumonia virus gene. Because scientific researchers of China, the United States, Canada and some other countries determined and decoded the illustrative plates of the atypical pneumonia virus gene in only a dozen days or more, and developed a detecting instrument. Along with the development of science and technology, human beings of today have got the upper hand in their struggle against serious illness, we have every reason to believe that humankind entirely has the ability to finally conquer atypical pneumonia.

From the medical point of view, disease comes when a person is born, especially the outbreak and epidemic of infectious disease would often emerge. According to historical records, as early as the 18th century, the disease of smallpox was once epidemic in the world, limited by the low medical level at that time, however, the number of people died of this disease reached 500,000 in Europe and 800,000 in Asia; in 1918, the "Spanish flu" broken out in Europe affected many regions of the world, as a consequence, 40 million people died of an untimely death. Even in today's society with developed science and technology, humankind is still faced with the threat of various dangerous diseases, malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, dengue, Ebola fever, Aids and other diseases are running wild in the world. For instance, Ebola hemorrhage fever broken out repeatedly in Africa in recent years have claimed the lives of nearly one thousand people, with the death rate reaching nearly one half. In addition, 9 million people were infected with TB worldwide in 2002 alone, resulting in the deaths of over 2 million people, not to say the number of deaths caused by Aids, the "century pestilence". In comparison, there are so far only over one hundred people in the world who have died of SARS, with the death rate being less than 5 percent, far from being regarded as serious among various kinds of infectious diseases.

It is true that disease is frightful, but in its protracted struggles against diseases, humankind has never given up efforts. In the 19th century, human beings gradually discovered their own immunity system and established immunology. The successful development of a variety of vaccines, in particular, has provided a strong weapon for mankind to fight against diseases. Since the past two centuries, the speed of human beings' defeat of diseases has become faster and their ability to do so has become stronger and stronger.

The invention of hydrophobia vaccine in 1885 and the emergence of antitoxin for treating diphtheria in 1890 heralded the dawn for large-scale defeat of diseases in the 20th century. In 1921, BCG for preventing tuberculosis emerged; in 1928, penicillin, the first antibiotic in the world was used in treating disease; in the same year, a kind of vaccine for treating whooping cough was born. After the 1970s, human success in conquering infectious disease reached an unprecedented height, with the successive elimination of smallpox and polio and success in the cultivation of hepatitis-B vaccine, many infectious diseases which had run wild for a long time were brought under effective check. With improvement in medical conditions, the number of people died of diseases, especially infectious illnesses, has been on the decline. The days when those diseases gobbled up the lives of tens of millions of people at one go have almost gone forever.

As a matter of fact, since human beings came to the world, people have been constantly fighting against diseases. With people's deepening understanding of various kinds of diseases, difficult medical problems were broken through one after another, the speed of human beings' freedom from the fetter of various diseases is being accelerated. This trend will become increasingly evident along with the application of modern high and new technologies.

The mad cow disease was first discovered in Britain in the 1980s, later some specialists estimated that the number of people contracted with the new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, (vCJD) infected by mad cow disease would possibly run as high as 500,000, this has aroused panic for many years. However, due to the application of gene technology, the cause of the disease was quickly found, as a result, after necessary measures were adopted by various countries, this disease was quickly brought under control. At the end of the 20th century, there were only 55 patients contracted with the new CJD who had undergone definite diagnosis. Similarly, today, scientists have quickly decoded SARS virus gene by the use of gene and computer technologies, this has made it possible to discover the SARS case soon after its emergence, thereby creating favorable conditions for effectively controlling the further spread of the disease.

Each discovery in science represents a step forward taken by mankind from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. Along with the development of social practice and the progress of science and technology, humankind will gain more and more freedom, not more and more restriction. Therefore we should rationally face the disease around us, we should neither take it lightly, nor should we be too panic-stricken. We should understand that human beings' fight against diseases, especially against infectious diseases, knows no bounds. In dealing with SARS of today, as long as we pay attention to its harmfulness, strengthen research on it, establish a complete monitoring system, exercise effective control and use other preventive means, we can certainly be able to eliminate or control its spread and prevalence.

By People's Daily Online

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