Marshall University history professor shares perspective on pandemic

Chris White, a professor of history in Marshall University’s College of Liberal Arts, was able to share his perspective on the global history of the COVID-19 disease.

A pandemic is defined as a disease outbreak that extends throughout a large region. They vary in scope, duration, and mortality. This is why the coronavirus is considered a pandemic, White said, because it extended to the rest of the world after originating in China.

“There’s evidence that this is a virus, which is a parasitic organism without a brain that depends on its propagation on living hosts, and that’s what’s killing thousands of people around the globe,” White said. “There is no evidence, nor has there ever been any evidence in past epidemics/pandemics, that a deity has anything to do with this.”

White said pandemics are unfortunately incredibly common in human history, and humans’ way of life is largely responsible.

“Since the rise of farming, humans have come into contact with animals that carry diseases that have killed many millions of people in the past 10,000 years,” he said. “Before farming and the rise of sedentary living (in homes) when humans were hunter-gatherers, diseases could not spread to as many people because we lived in small bands rather than towns and cities.”

Coronavirus is the disease that emerged in China in December 2019. It can be spread from person to person, and as of now, there is not a specific treatment for the virus. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who become sick from coronavirus should be treated with supportive measures by using medication that relieves symptoms. For severe cases, there may be additional options for treatment, including research drugs and therapeutics, White said.

“There have been a few doctors overseas and one doctor in New York who have been using hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19,” White said. “But there may not be a true vaccine until next year, we just don’t know. Everyone is still trying to figure out what this virus is capable of and how bad it is going to affect people.”

White said this virus will not completely die out, but as it runs its course, numbers will lower as doctors search to find a vaccine. That is why people should stay inside until they everything is controlled, White said.

White also said people of West Virginia should take this time to care about what is going on around them and what this pandemic can tell them about the drug abuse problem that is going on.

“The opioids that have killed thousands of West Virginians were first legalized, recommended, and prescribed by pharmaceutical companies and doctors in the nineteenth century when they were mainly used to ease coughing and pain resulting from diseases like pneumonia and the flu,” White said.  “So, kids today are being arrested for using drugs originally marketed to our ancestors to treat those horrible illnesses, and they’re still being prescribed for those diseases today.”

White also specializes in Latin American history. He has authored four books and has an integrated perspective on pandemics.

Talor Bennett can be contacted at [email protected]