The year 2020 is associated with the spread of disturbing new diseases, considered to have wreaked havoc on the world population. The emergence of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused serious public health emergencies across the globe
and the melting of polar ice caps is adding further fuel to fire our fears of a re-emergence of pre-historic deadly viruses and other germs previously dormant and confined in frozen lands. In this respect, the World Health Organisation is working closely with global experts, governments and partners to rapidly expand scientific knowledge on these new diseases, to track the spread and virulence of the virus, and to provide advice to countries and individuals on measures to protect health and prevent the spread of these diseases .
If the emergence of corona virus can take place in China, a country already struggling to tackle existing outbreaks of other pathogens, it is likely that it could wreak havoc on an even larger magnitude, particularly its spread in African countries. The last two Ebola outbreaks in West Africa from 2013 to 2016 and in the Democratic Republic of Congo have devastated the economy and wellbeing of the citizens in the affected countries. If any good has come of those events, it’s that they have also led to improvements in public health care systems and epidemic management of many African countries capacity to tackle emerging infectious diseases, bringing in investments in diagnostic capacity and national coordination. Nigeria, for example, has upgraded its national laboratory that tests infectious-disease specimens. And improved surveillance and detection capabilities not just of Ebola, but also of Lassa fever and the growing incidence of monkeypox and other infectious diseases . Recently Nigeria was recorded to have strengthened her capacity to address the impact of climate change on health .
Some infectious diseases are fatal but in most of the cases, the mortality rates are less . As per the reports, coronavirus appears to pose a threat to middle-aged and older adults, particularly men. This week, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention published the largest analysis of coronavirus cases to date. Although men and women have been infected in roughly equal numbers, researchers found, the death rate among men was 2.8 percent, compared with 1.7 percent among women.
Also, men were disproportionately affected during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreaks, which were caused by coronaviruses. More women than men were infected by SARS in Hong Kong in 2003, but the death rate among men was 50 percent higher, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. About 32 percent of men infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome died, compared with 25.8 percent of women. Young adult men also died at higher rates than female peers during the influenza epidemic of 1918 .
Several factors may be working against men in the current epidemic, scientists say, including some that are biological, and some that are rooted in lifestyle. When it comes to mounting an immune response against infections diseases, men are the weaker sex. China has the largest population of smokers in the world — 316 million people — accounting for nearly one-third of the world’s smokers and 40 percent of tobacco consumption worldwide. But just over 2 percent of Chinese women smoke, compared with more than half of all men. Chinese men also have higher rates of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure than women, both of which increase the risk of complications following infection with the coronavirus. Rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are almost twice as high among Chinese men as among women . All these data show that body self-immunity places a vital role in fighting with deadly infectious diseases while changing lifestyle and adoption of unhealthy practices have lowered the body immunity.
How to maintain your immunity?
The best thing you can do to maintain your immune system is to adopt a good healthy living strategy that will benefit the entire body, including your immune system. These strategies might include eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, drinking alcohol only in moderation, getting enough sleep, avoiding infection through regular hand washing and reducing stress.
Vitamins A, C, and D, and minerals — including zinc — play a role in the functioning of the immune system. Soluble fibres switch immune cells from pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory, which helps us to heal faster from infection. Prolonged fasting has been linked with stem cell regeneration of older and damaged immune cells. Just like eating a healthy diet, regular physical activity contributes to overall good health and, therefore, a healthy immune system.
Exercise promotes efficient blood circulation, which keeps the cells of the immune system moving so that they can effectively do their job. One study revealed that just 20 minutes of moderate exercise stimulated the immune system, which, in turn, produced an anti-inflammatory cellular response. Although many questions remain about the function of the immune system, it is clear that consuming a healthy diet, regularly exercising, getting adequate sleep, and reducing stress will go a long way to ensuring your immunity is maintained .
Mrs. Jyoti Rajwar, is a Lecturer II in Skyline University Nigeria. She has MSc in Microbiology from G.B.Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, India.
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