|33rd Kerala Science Congress focal theme: Pandemics: Risks, Impact and Mitigation|
Pandemics are epidemics of infectious diseases that spread to several countries and cause much morbidity and mortality in their populations. Pandemics due to virulent pathogens that are contagious cause, in addition to many deaths, significant economic, social, and political disruption. The probability of pandemics has increased over the past century because of increased global travel and trade, urbanization and changes in land use. Increased exploitation of the natural environment facilitates pathogens jumping hosts from wild life to humans, causing zoonotic outbreaks that may amplify to pandemics. As these trends will continue, major policy attention, global and national, is needed to mitigate such risks. Health management systems must be strengthened to detect early and interrupt effectively any emerging pathogens that might lead to pandemics and mitigate their adverse impact.
India is vulnerable to pandemics. Millions of Indians are believed to have died during the influenza pandemic of 1918. Then, viruses had not yet been discovered, penicillin was unknown and there were no diagnostic tests. The country has witnessed several pandemics in the last century. When AIDS pandemic reached India in 1984, our diagnostic virology capability was much advanced. The science of virology has been progressing and Kerala has established an Institute of Advanced Virology in 2020. To detect the emergence pandemics, we need dynamic, comprehensive and real time disease surveillance, with reliable laboratory diagnostic support service.
The COVID-19 pandemic that reached all countries of the world has adversely impacted almost all the elements of the spectrum of life, social, economic, manufacture, education and healthcare, to name a few.
We must learn of, and from, the breadth and depth of its impact, so as to bolster our capacity for mitigation of risks and impact of any future pandemics. The opportunity to learn lessons and to create a legacy of our experience, should not be missed. The 33rd Kerala Science Congress with its focal theme, “Pandemics: Risks, Impact and Mitigation”, gives us a platform to explore all facets of pandemics.