COVID-19 Pandemic - Rethink Humanity's Future
Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love for humanity. - Hippocrates
Dr. Chee Hui Yee works as an associate professor at the department of medical microbiology, University Putra Malaysia. As a professor, she is known for her willingness to reach out to her students at every level. Being a virologist, her enthusiasm for viruses and medicine has led her to commit her life to studying and investigating the various infectious diseases caused by infectious organisms. Her field of research involves a combination of common infectious diseases such as dengue to new emerging diseases, for example, the life-threatening COVID-19 virus.
Dr. Chee has been active in social media and talk shows to spread awareness and educate the public about the importance of using preventive measures to control the spread of COVID-19. As a wife and mother, her family was constantly worried about her safety as she spent long hours working in the laboratory during the early pandemic. Being a researcher; Dr. Chee hopes to make positive changes in the community and helps them cope during difficult times.
Currently, Dr. Chee is conducting a research study with a group of researchers from the Institute of Biotechnology, University of Cambridge. The project is under the supervision of Professor Lisa Hall, who is the head of Cambridge Analytical Biotechnology. The research focuses on developing affordable, simple and point-of-care diagnostic tests using the latest technology.
Dr. Chee has published several articles related to her research and studies. She also updates publishers information about the latest development of COVID-19.
I was delighted to get Dr. Chee answered COVID-19 related questions.
Covid-19 poses threat to humans in different parts of the world. Do you think the virus is winning?
The virus seems to be winning, but we have bullets – vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines train the immune system to recognize and fight against the virus. However, it will be a long battle against the virus, and humans will continue to face challenges in this pandemic until we find a better solution.
To date, the best way to bring the number of cases down is through aggressive vaccination campaigns. But most importantly, avoiding confined and crowded places, wearing masks, frequent hand washing and maintaining physical distancing will definitely reduce the risk of infection and getting the disease. Vaccines may help in reducing symptoms but it doesn’t protect people from becoming infected or spreading the virus to others. You can get infected despite being fully vaccinated.
Is it possible for humans to live in harmony with the Covid-19 virus?
The Covid-19 virus will continue to mutate. Looking at the current development, no questions about it. We need to find ways to learn to live with the virus and not ask when and how the pandemic will end. The Covid-19 virus has found a way to adapt and live among humans, just like Influenza A and other human respiratory viruses except it is more deadly. They have acquired the ability to transmit the disease among humans successfully. This is a new reality, we must face it and prepare ourselves for the next normal.
Do you see hope in controlling the virus?
The emergence of new variants occurs when there is a change in the genetic sequence. Currently we are seeing multiple variants emerging in different countries. Not only they spread faster, but they mutate at a faster rate too. It is common for virus to mutate to facilitate virus replication. Virus can only replicate within a host organism, they can't function outside a host organism.
When there are errors during the copying process, the new variants emerge. The mutated strain may either become less infectious or more transmissible. They may also lead to increased hospitalizations or deaths. Sometimes viruses can have mutations that give them the advantage to become more lethal. Other times, viruses are more likely to mutate into a weaker strain. We can always look at the history of past pandemics to find out the best way to reduce the spread of infections.
What is the biggest threat to the human race? The COVID-19 virus or humans?
Human activities! Humans are the ones who bought the virus into their community. They are responsible for spreading the virus. The Covid-19 virus is classified as zoonotic virus. We are not the first time exposed to this type of virus. This virus exists in wild animals. When humans disturb the forests and invade wild animal habitats, close contact with exotic wildlife may cause outbreaks of animal-borne infectious diseases. Viruses can be transmitted easily from their natural host, in this case, the wild animals to a new host, the human body. They will quickly adapt to their new hosts for their own benefits-to reproduce. Many times, it is humans who unintentionally bring the virus back into their community.
What do you want to tell our society, any advice you would like to share with them?
The majority of new emerging diseases in humans are zoonotic in origin. We have seen many cases of past and present human viruses that came from zoonotic transmission. COVID-19 virus will not be the last zoonotic virus to cause a pandemic. Humans’ greatest enemy is zoonotic diseases. Please reframe yourself from hunting, keeping or eating wildlife. Reducing deforestation can help reduce the risk of future pandemics due to less human-wildlife contact. Sixty per cent of human infectious diseases originate from animals including livestock farming. You can help prevent the next pandemic by reducing meat consumption. Reducing meat consumption is good for environmental well-being. Eat more fruits and vegetables if possible, choose to become a vegetarian. Only we can break the chain of zoonotic diseases.
Published in Dreamic Educational Magazine 2022.
*Pfizer/FDA released a list of “1291 side effects” of Pfizer vaccine in March 2022.