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Jansel Jiménez Bulle

There’s a notion that floats in the air and crosses borders. The perception that life had ceased to be as it before began to was officially glimpsed for the first time just over two months ago.

“We know that for many people life is changing dramatically,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director of the World Health Organization (WHO), during a conference addressed to the whole world.

That comment by the official gave rise to a series of WHO recommendations for long-term implementation, which can be summarized in 10 general preventive measures to keep your immune system in good order:

  • Have a healthy diet.
  • Limit alcohol consumption and avoid sugary drinks.
  • No smoking.
  • Do 30 minutes of exercise every day.
  • Do not stay seated or in the same position for a long time.
  • Keep your mind healthy.
  • Keep a safe distance away from others and use face masks.
  • Be aware of neighbors’, family and friends’ situations.
  • Listen to music and read books.
  • Search for information from trusted sources once or twice a day.

Felipe Muñoz González, a specialist at the National Institute of Genomic Medicine, notes that the objective of the rules which structure the ‘new normal’ is not only to do with strengthening the immune system of individuals, but also with reducing the number of viruses within the environment.

“All the measures related to the ‘new normal’ are aimed at reducing the probability of contagion, i.e. coming into contact with a large amount of the virus, because it is the viral load that determines whether a very serious, clinically mild, or asymptomatic disease will develop,” shared this UNAM Faculty of Chemistry graduate.

In an interview for Tec Review, the scientist explained that it is possible for someone who receives a low viral load not to develop symptoms. In fact, this would be the best possible situation: having contact with a small amount of the virus, not enough to develop a disease, but enough for the body to generate antibodies.

“This always happens when we’re in contact with people: we’re inoculating ourselves against viruses and we’re creating reciprocal immunity. The ideal has never been not to get infected, but to get infected with the minimal viral load. You need to have as little contact as possible with it so as not to develop a serious or even average clinical disease, but simply to be asymptomatic and allow the body to develop immunity,” says Muñoz González.

The measures promoted by the WHO, such as the use of face masks and keeping a safe distance from others, should be incorporated into daily life, especially into social activities that involve many people. According to the specialist, this will not eliminate the virus, but will reduce the amount of SARS-CoV-2 exchanged between the world’s inhabitants.

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Lessons Learned from Spanish Flu

In the context of the ‘new normal’, there are likely to be new outbreaks because the virus has not disappeared. It is simply latent. This is what epidemiological studies reveal.

According to this specialist, in general the first wave is usually the most intense. Other waves, which are less and less strong, develop later. But there is a risk, as with the 1918 Spanish flu, that a resurgence is more harmful. Right now, we are barely at the beginning of the story.

“It is well known that in 1918, the largest number of people who died in Spain, around 70%, occurred during the second wave, approximately after five months the start of the epidemic,” warns this expert in genomic medicine.

In the first wave of Covid-19, there has been a withdrawal of a good part of the Mexican population into their homes. However, now that population is going to take to the streets again which is why, according to Muñoz, it is necessary to monitor any recurrence of the virus very well, “especially in areas where the virus has not yet reached a high magnitude. In those places, people have not really had much contact with the virus, so there is a high possibility of an increase in infections.”

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The hope that everything will stay the same

Resistance to change is a characteristic of the human psyche. Changes in habits caused by the mass transmission of a virus do not occur spontaneously. Quite the opposite occurs.

In crisis situations, a mental rigidity develops that, according to Carlos Verlón Barragán, philosopher at the UNAM, was masterfully explained in La Peste, a novel by the French writer Albert Camus, which provides reflections that can be applied to the situation society is facing today.

“What Camus shows in his novel is that people struggle to maintain the same lifestyle, despite the fact that everything indicates that they must change it. The plague that Camus describes is based on a real event (a cholera epidemic) that occurred in the Algerian city of Oran, in 1849,” says Verlon in an interview for Tec Review.

In the novel, the plague comes and goes without the inhabitants having been able to do anything about it. It does not arrive as the result of human creation nor, when it goes, is it thanks to the intervention of man. Undoubtedly, it is a situation of uncertainty analogous to our current reality and enhanced by the tendency of people to oppose change.

“That’s what happens: human nature tends to keep to the same habits, while non-human nature forces us to understand that we have to change them. In general, human beings tend to modify their lifestyle just a little and we try to act as if nothing will happen all the time,” concludes this philosopher.

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