Gail Carlson, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Susan Childers, Instructor of Biology, Walter Hatch, Associate Professor of Government, and Laura Seay, Assistant Professor of Government
In late February, members of the Colby Community gathered for a panel discussion on infectious disease and policy management. The discussion was initiated and moderated by Colby freshman Josh Brause ’23, freshman representative on the Goldfarb Student Engagement Committee. Panelists included Gail Carlson, associate professor of Environmental Studies; Susan Childers, instructor of Biology, Walter Hatch, associate professor of Government; and Laura Seay, Assistant Professor of Government. Goldfarb. The timely discussion centered around COVID-19, the virus responsible for our current pandemic. The situation has escalated significantly since the panel took place; what was at the time an isolated outbreak has since been declared a pandemic.
Professor Carlson provided the current data from the World Health Organization (WHO), a faction under the United Nations. At the time of the panel discussion, there were roughly 80,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, with 97% of those cases in China. She mentioned that COVID-19, along with SARS and MERS are all coronaviruses that cause acute respiratory illness. SARS was quickly contained, while MERS is still ongoing, however, there are only around 2,500 confirmed cases.
Professor Seay gave us a glimpse at the role of worldwide organizations responsible for addressing public health issues, such as the WHO Seay noted that politically, the WHO is operating on a delicate line of representing best practices in global health, while also maintaining strong relations with nations that are the site of ongoing outbreaks. Josh Brause ’23 noted that the WHO had recently issued a public health emergency declaration for COVID-19, urging the global community to take the disease seriously. Professor Hatch, whose area of study includes Asia, addressed criticism of the Chinese government, and why the decentralized nature of government may have led to the delay in reporting, as well as underreporting the scope of the outbreak.
How do pandemics like these emerge? Susan Childers explained how certain conditions lead to disease outbreaks like the one we’re battling globally. Bats, the species suspected to be the source of the virus, can pick up and spread diseases as they migrate. Many diseases are unable to survive in a bat’s body as they fly, however, some do. Environments with a mix of dead and live animals, wild and domestic, place stress on the live animals, weakening their immune systems and increasing shedding of the virus, which became zoonotic, meaning it can infect multiple different species.
For more information, be sure to follow the CDC guidelines to limit the spread. Stay home. Stay safe.