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Humankind Is Able to Conquer SARS: Commentary
2003/11/03

"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.
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