WHEN I was in school, I was taught a phrase - news spreads like wildfire. We all know that wildfires are uncontrolled, unplanned and unwanted forest fires. They cause great harm to the flora and fauna in the jungle and can’t be brought under control easily. They can be started by human carelessness like discarding of lit cigarettes or campfires or may be intentional arson or due to intense heat from the Sun or strike of lightning.
We were told through stories that the news especially a rumour spreads like wildfire within no time. It always meant that the story in question disseminated through word of mouth, which was probably the fastest means of communication then. As means of communication advanced, telephones were invented and many a households proudly boasted of having them.
But their use was restricted to important essential conversations. So use of telephones for gossiping and spreading rumours was a strict no- no. With the advent of social media, all and sundry had the ability to write, react to or share (be it a written content, a photograph or a video) whatever they felt like. Thus with a click of a few buttons, or touch of a screen here and there, you could create a story, share it and it would spread like wildfire within few seconds. Nobody would bother to test the veracity of such content and it could go “viral” in no time. Yes! Now the correct terminology for describing such content is “going viral” rather than “spreading like wildfire” which is antiquated.
Whenever, a child had common cold or fever, more often than not it was termed a viral infection. And the paediatrician would warn against giving the child any antibiotics, which are meant to act against bacterial infections and would be of no use in viral infections. The child would be cured within a week, owing to the immune system. But these viral infections are surely contagious i.e. could go viral and would infect one child after another if the child were sent to school.
Then came the most dreadful virus of all. It should be “coronated” as the king of all viruses until another deadlier one comes to displace it. It has all the features of a simple flu but the symptoms are more lethal. It too spread like a wildfire -in today’s parlance, went viral spreading across the globe affecting one nation after the other. Thus, the virus had really gone viral but unfortunately, this was in real sense of the term affecting the citizens physically, knocking them down, incapacitating them and causing a huge loss of man- hours and precious lives. It was no longer restricted to the virtual world where only tempers flared and wars of words raged on twitter. But let me reiterate that the infection going viral had the same prerequisites (as those of wildfire).
It was unplanned, uncontrolled and transmitted by human carelessness- namely not following social distancing norms, crowding and scant regard to proper wearing of mask. Although the viral wave has subsided for now, it can be a lull before another storm. So let’s not let our guard down and do our bit in preventing the infection going viral.