Monday, July 13, 2020

The Coronavirus Disease

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Computer generated representation of COVID-19 virions (SARS-CoV-2) under electron microscope | Source Felipe Esquivel Reed via Wikimedia

Severe acute respiratory syndrome-Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a novel virus from the family of coronaviruses which causes COVID-19 i.e. Coronavirus Disease-2019. It is the successor of the SARS-CoV-1 which caused the SARS outbreak in the year 2003-2004. This is a positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus which has rapid mutation properties.

The etymology of the name suggests that 'Corona' comes from the Latin word corōna meaning crown, garland, or a wreath. When seen under an Electron Microscope, the virion which has a diameter of 50-200 nanometres looks like the solar corona hence named Coronavirus.

When the virus enters the body; it attaches itself to the binding site or the ACE 2 receptors of healthy lung cells through its spike protein. Then it enters the cell via this attachment and causes apoptosis or cell death. The virus also affects organs other than lungs such as the brain, heart and kidneys. The multiple impact points make it problematic for the researchers to create a vaccine in addition to its rapid mutation properties.

The disease might have a zoonotic origin i.e. the transmission occurs from animals to humans. On comparing the genomic sequences the Human Coronavirus strain is found to be 96% identical to Bat Coronavirus samples and 92% similar to the Pangolins samples. Human transmission of the disease takes place via air droplets when the infected person is coughing, sneezing or talking.

The first cases of this respiratory illness were reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, on 31 December 2019. It is the first severe outbreak since the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic. Initially, it was supposed that the site of origination is Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market but, in May 2020 the negative samples tested, by  Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, from the livestock market suggested that it was the site of the super spreading of the virus.

SARS-CoV-2 is known to have an average reproduction number of 2.2-2.6 which means that, on an average, one infected person can spread the infection to 2-3 people. Although if measures like social distancing are put into use, to reduce the exposure of the infected population, it leads to a significant reduction in transmission rates. The infection fatality rate (IFR) of COVID-19 in various studies till 16th June 2020 was projected to range 0.60% to 1% of infected people . However few studies suggested the IFR as high as 3.6%.

The testing of an individual takes place through a method known as real-time Reverse transcription Polymerization Chain reaction (rRT-PCR). The process of obtaining strains and testing the patients usually involves nasal swabs or sputum swabs; the results come in within a span of a few hours to a couple of days.

Currently, there are no known vaccines available for the virus or any specific antiviral treatments, but there are numerous vaccines in works all over the world to tackle COVID-19. Experts believe that the minimum time required to test a vaccine is 12 to 18 months.

Trials are also going on for the repurposed drugs or the drugs which are useful for treating other diseases and might be capable against COVID-19: Some of these drugs are Hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, Remdesivir, Dexamethasone, Lopinavir-ritonavir, and Convalescent plasma.

The only current solutions for tackling the pandemic are social distancing, hand wash, hygiene and face masks.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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