Future Focused Issue - Zoonotic Viruses
Jun 16, 2020
Part of the mission here at Future Focused Teaching and Learning is helping teachers to create a better world for future generations. In order to do this, we need to delve into the types of issues our future generations will face so that we can have more of an idea on how to prepare them.
Each month we will focus on one future focused issue. A future focused issue is a problem, challenge, obstacle or hope for the future, that our students will likely have to deal with within their lifetimes. We will discuss what the issue is, why it is a problem and why it is important that we equip students with the skills and knowledge to tackle it. We will also discuss ways that these issues can be incorporated into the curriculum, in order to make learning more relevant and meaningful for our students.
This month, we will discuss the topical issue of viruses. At the moment, the world has been in lockdown for the last 3-6 months, depending on where you are in the world, due to the global pandemic that is called Covid-19. It has shaken the world, collapsed economies, and to date has caused 7.69million confirmed cases and 430,000 deaths worldwide. Our globalised world is no longer the same, with strict travel restrictions in place and trade partnerships disrupted. In many parts of the world the virus is nowhere near under control, whereas in other countries restrictions are starting to ease. However it is fair to say that it will be a long time before things return to ’normal’, and it’s possible that they never will completely.
Whilst it took the world by surprise, in reality it has been expected by the scientific community for quite some time.
Covid-19 is the name of the illness that is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which belongs to a family of viruses called ‘Coronavirus’. Coronaviruses are classes as ‘zoonotic’, meaning that they originate in animals. Animals carry many viruses (as do humans), many of which are not harmful to them, due to developing immunity over time. However in some cases, when these viruses pass from animals to humans, they can then mutate, meaning that they can then pass from human to human. Being a novel (new) virus, humans have no immunity to it and can develop severe illness and in some cases death.
In the case of Covid-19, the current evidence is pointing towards the virus jumping from a bat to a pangolin, which then jumped to humans, possibly at a wet market within the province of Wuhan, China. Viruses from animals can jump to humans in a number of different ways, as shown in this infographic:
The world has experienced many pandemics and epidemics due to zoonotic viruses throughout our history. Here are just some from over the last century or so:
Spanish Flu (1918 - 1920) - this was caused by a H1N1 virus thought to be of Avian (bird) origin. The reason it managed to spread so fast around the world back then is due to the many soldiers returning home after WW1. It is estimated to have caused 50 million deaths, although some estimates are up to 100 million (this is in comparison to around 20 million deaths during WW1).
The HIV-Aids virus is also zoonotic, believed to have originated in chimpanzees.
More are outlined in this infographic: