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The impact of global epidemics

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

An exhibition on the inter-connectedness of human, animal and environmental health took place in Mumbai recently

Hollywood has always been a dab hand at inducing terror about epidemics kick-started by man or beast. Needless to say, the visual image has more visceral impact than the written word. Interestingly, one movie is even titled Outbreak which is also the title of an educative and enlightening exhibition held recently at  the Nehru Science Centre's sprawling Haines Road complex in Mumbai.

The year 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Spanish Flu, the Great Influenza, a pandemic that took the lives of 50–100 million people between three and five per cent of the world’s population at that time. India too has been a victim of this catastrophic disease outbreak losing 10 to 15 million lives. Of the more  recent scourges, it may be noted that the HIV virus is spread by unsafe sex (oral and anal), tainted blood and medical procedures that violate hygiene standards. Scientists identified a type of West African ape as the source which mutated into the virus after humans consumed the flesh of the animals.  Doctors have not found a cure for HIV/AIDs.

To mark this pandemic centenary so that the global community, which is now more connected than ever before thanks to the world wide web and aviation, is  well prepared to combat any such eventuality, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), USA,  curated a new exhibition, “Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World,”.

NMNH in collaboration with Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI), USA, is taking this topical exhibition worldwide to create larger awareness and impact and invited the Nehru Science Centre to host the exhibition which was inaugurated by Dr. Zarir Udwadia,  researcher and renowned physician in the  presence of Dr. Michelle A. Williams, Dean of the Faculty, and Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School, USA and Dr. Ashish K. Jha, Dean for Global Strategy & K.T. Li  Professor of Global Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health & Director, Harvard Global Health Institute, USA.

The American medicos were also visiting the Mumbai outpost of the T H Chan School at the Piramal Health Centre.

Exploring pandemic risks in the modern interconnected world from the ecological context point of view will immensely benefit human society in understanding the natural world and the place of humans within it. Outbreak Exhibition spotlights the human causes of infectious-disease epidemics, such as land-use change, urbanisation and industrialised food production, as well as their consequences for communities, societies and the global population.

The exhibition  helped visitors understand how to prevent zoonotic viruses like Ebola, Zika and influenza from emerging and quickly spreading around the world while underlining the message that human, animal and environmental health are interconnected as ‘One Health’ in the 21st century.

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