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After Columbus's voyage to the new world, how quickly did this knowledge spread into the other parts of the old world? For example, when did the existence of the new world become "common knowledge" (for laypeople, or if that's too vague then for the rulers of various kingdoms) in various European countries, middle eastern civilizations, the Indian subcontinent and China?
If this is too broad or too vague, I'm particularly interested in the general awareness in Indian subcontinent.
Although the discovery of new routes was quickly published (as Tyler points out in his response), the first recorded descriptions of the lands as a "New World" was made by Americo Vespuccio in the beginning of the 1500s decade. It is to note that Vespuccio's orignal claims were only about the Brazil coast that he had explored.
But those were in private letters; I would said that knowledge was exposed to the (informed) public with the maps of Cosmographiae Introductio.
As for the other parts of the world, Portuguese stations in India would have been iformed pretty soon (if anything, to warn them of the possibility of the appearance of competitor ships), but I do not know how much information did the Portuguese share with the native Indians (my guess is that only the strictly necessary, in order to improve their commercial situation).
By March 1496 even the English had located and employed their own adventurers to explore the New World, namely John Cabot and Sons, by granting Letters Patent in exchange for a 20% Royal interest in profits:
For John Cabot and his Sons.
The King, to all to whom, etc. Greeting: Be it known and made manifest that we have given and granted as by these presents we give and grant, for us and our heirs, to our well beloved John Cabot, citizen of Venice, and to Lewis, Sebastian and Sancio, sons of the said John, and to the heirs and deputies of them, and of any one of them, full and free authority, faculty and power to sail to all parts, regions and coasts of the eastern, western and northern sea, under our banners, flags and ensigns, with five ships or vessels of whatsoever burden and quality they may be, and with so many and such mariners and men as they may wish to take with them in the said ships, at their own proper costs and charges, to find, discover and investigate whatsoever islands, countries, regions or provinces of heathens and infidels, in whatsoever part of the world placed, which before this time were unknown to all Christians.
It was known throughout Europe virtually instantly, meaning within weeks of Columbus' return to Barcelona on March 15, 1493, where he was received as a huge hero.
Not only did the knowledge of the New World become universal thoughout Europe immediately, but they immediately starting dividing it up, even though they had no idea of its dimensions! On May 4, 1493, less than 2 months after the first return, Pope Alexander issued the papal bull Inter Caetera ("Among Other Things") which stated what is now known as the Doctrine of Discovery.
Presumably, India would have learned of the discovery as soon as the first traders arrived bearing news from from Europe, which would have been in about 2 months after the return, so approximately early in June, 1493.
How Does a Pandemic End? Here's What We Can Learn From the 1918 Flu
M ore than six months after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, as scientific understanding of the novel coronavirus continues to evolve, one question remains decidedly unanswered. How will this pandemic come to an end?
Current scientific understanding is that only a vaccine will put an end to this pandemic, but how we get there remains to be seen. It seems safe to say, however, that some day, somehow, it will end. After all, other viral pandemics have. Take, for example, the flu pandemic of 1918-1919.
That pandemic was the deadliest in the 20th century it infected about 500 million people and killed at least 50 million, including 675,000 in the United States. And, while scientific knowledge of viruses and vaccine development has advanced significantly since then, the uncertainty felt around the world today would have been familiar a century ago.
Even after that virus died out, it would be years before scientists better understood what happened, and some mystery still remains. Here’s what we do know: in order for a pandemic to end, the disease in question has to reach a point at which it is unable to successfully find enough hosts to catch it and then spread it.
In the case of the 1918 pandemic, the world at first believed that the spread had been stopped by the spring of 1919, but it spiked again in early 1920. As with other flu strains, this flu may have become more active in the winter months because people were spending more time indoors in closer proximity to one another, and because artificial heat and fires dry out skin, and the cracks in the skin in the nose and mouth provide “great entry points for the virus,” explains Howard Markel, physician and director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan.
Flu “does tend to go quiet when the cold weather regresses, but no one knows why,” Markel says.
But, by the middle of 1920, that deadly strain of flu had in fact faded enough that the pandemic was over in many places, even though there was no dramatic or memorable declaration that the end had come.
“The end of the pandemic occurred because the virus circulated around the globe, infecting enough people that the world population no longer had enough susceptible people in order for the strain to become a pandemic once again,” says medical historian J. Alexander Navarro, Markel’s colleague and the Assistant Director of the Center for the History of Medicine. “When you get enough people who get immunity, the infection will slowly die out because it’s harder for the virus to find new susceptible hosts.”
Eventually, with “fewer susceptible people out and about and mingling,” Navarro says, there was nowhere for the virus to go &mdashthe “herd immunity” being talked about today. By the end of the pandemic, a whopping third of the world’s population had caught the virus. (At the moment, about half a percent of the global population is known to have been infected with the novel coronavirus.)
The end of the 1918 pandemic wasn’t, however, just the result of so many people catching it that immunity became widespread. Social distancing was also key. Public health advice on curbing the spread of the virus was eerily similar to that of today: citizens were encouraged to stay healthy through campaigns promoting mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, quarantining and isolating of patients, and the closure of schools, public spaces and non-essential businesses&mdashall steps designed to cut off routes for the virus’ spread.
In fact, a study that Markel and Navarro co-authored, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007, found that U.S. cities that implemented more than one of these aforementioned control measures earlier and kept them in place longer had better, less deadly outcomes than cities that implemented fewer of these control measures and did not do so until later.
Public health officials took all of these measures despite not knowing for sure whether they were dealing with a virus or a bacterial infection the research that proved influenza comes from a virus and not a bacterium didn’t come out until the 1930s. It wasn’t until 2005 that articles in Science and Nature capped off a nearly decade-long process of mapping the genome of the flu strain that caused the 1918 pandemic.
A century later, the world is facing another pandemic caused by a virus, though of a different sort. COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus, not influenza, so scientists are still learning how it behaves. While flu is more active in the winter&mdashand, as Markel points out, the 1918 flu died out in a way “we would expect now” of seasonal flu&mdashCOVID-19 was active in the U.S. over the summer. Doctors expect the COVID-19 pandemic won’t really end until there’s both a vaccine and a certain level of exposure in the global population. “We’re not certain,” Markel says, “but we’re pretty darn sure.”
And yet, in the meantime, people can help the effort to limit the impact of the pandemic. A century ago, being proactive about public health saved lives&mdashand it can do so again today.
Christianity "emerged as a sect of Judaism in Roman Palestine"  in the syncretistic Hellenistic world of the first century AD, which was dominated by Roman law and Greek culture.  It started with the ministry of Jesus, who proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God.  [web 1] After his death by crucifixion, some of his followers saw Jesus, and proclaimed him to be alive and resurrected by God.      The resurrection of Jesus "signalled for earliest believers that the days of eschatological fulfillment were at hand," [web 2] and gave the impetus in certain Christian sects to the exaltation of Jesus to the status of divine Son and Lord of God's Kingdom  [web 2] and the resumption of their missionary activity.  
Traditionally, the years following Jesus until the death of the last of the Twelve Apostles is called the Apostolic Age, after the missionary activities of the apostles.  According to the Acts of the Apostles (the historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles is disputed), the Jerusalem church began at Pentecost with some 120 believers,  in an "upper room," believed by some to be the Cenacle, where the apostles received the Holy Spirit and emerged from hiding following the death and resurrection of Jesus to preach and spread his message.  
The New Testament writings depict what orthodox Christian churches call the Great Commission, an event where they describe the resurrected Jesus Christ instructing his disciples to spread his eschatological message of the coming of the Kingdom of God to all the nations of the world. The most famous version of the Great Commission is in Matthew 28:16–20 , where on a mountain in Galilee Jesus calls on his followers to make disciples of and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Paul's conversion on the Road to Damascus is first recorded in Acts 9:13–16. Peter baptized the Roman centurion Cornelius, traditionally considered the first Gentile convert to Christianity, in Acts 10. Based on this, the Antioch church was founded. It is also believed that it was there that the term Christian was coined. 
Missionary activity Edit
After the death of Jesus, Christianity first emerged as a sect of Judaism as practiced in the Roman province of Judea.  The first Christians were all Jews, who constituted a Second Temple Jewish sect with an apocalyptic eschatology.  
The Jerusalem community consisted of "Hebrews," Jews speaking both Aramaic and Greek, and "Hellenists," Jews speaking only Greek, possibly diaspora Jews who had resettled in Jerusalem.  With the start of their missionary activity, early Jewish Christians also started to attract proselytes, Gentiles who were fully or partly converted to Judaism.  [note 1] According to Dunn, Paul's initial persecution of Christians probably was directed against these Greek-speaking "Hellenists" due to their anti-Temple attitude.  Within the early Jewish Christian community, this also set them apart from the "Hebrews" and their Tabernacle observance. 
Christian missionary activity spread "the Way" and slowly created early centers of Christianity with Gentile adherents in the predominantly Greek-speaking eastern half of the Roman Empire, and then throughout the Hellenistic world and even beyond the Roman Empire.     [note 2] Early Christian beliefs were proclaimed in kerygma (preaching), some of which are preserved in New Testament scripture. The early Gospel message spread orally, probably originally in Aramaic,  but almost immediately also in Greek. 
The scope of the Jewish-Christian mission expanded over time. While Jesus limited his message to a Jewish audience in Galilea and Judea, after his death his followers extended their outreach to all of Israel, and eventually the whole Jewish diaspora, believing that the Second Coming would only happen when all Jews had received the Gospel.  Apostles and preachers traveled to Jewish communities around the Mediterranean Sea, and initially attracted Jewish converts.  Within 10 years of the death of Jesus, apostles had attracted enthusiasts for "the Way" from Jerusalem to Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Cyprus, Crete, Alexandria and Rome.     Over 40 churches were established by 100,   most in Asia Minor, such as the seven churches of Asia, and some in Greece and Italy.
According to Fredriksen, when missionary early Christians broadened their missionary efforts, they also came into contact with Gentiles attracted to the Jewish religion. Eventually, the Gentiles came to be included in the missionary effort of Hellenised Jews, bringing "all nations" into the house of God.  The "Hellenists," Greek-speaking diaspora Jews belonging to the early Jerusalem Jesus-movement, played an important role in reaching a Gentile, Greek audience, notably at Antioch, which had a large Jewish community and significant numbers of Gentile "God-fearers."  From Antioch, the mission to the Gentiles started, including Paul's, which would fundamentally change the character of the early Christian movement, eventually turning it into a new, Gentile religion.  According to Dunn, within ten years after Jesus' death, "the new messianic movement focused on Jesus began to modulate into something different . it was at Antioch that we can begin to speak of the new movement as 'Christianity'." 
Paul and the inclusion of Gentiles Edit
Paul was responsible for bringing Christianity to Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, and Thessalonica.  [ better source needed ] According to Larry Hurtado, "Paul saw Jesus' resurrection as ushering in the eschatological time foretold by biblical prophets in which the pagan 'Gentile' nations would turn from their idols and embrace the one true God of Israel (e.g., Zechariah 8:20–23 ), and Paul saw himself as specially called by God to declare God's eschatological acceptance of the Gentiles and summon them to turn to God." [web 3] According to Krister Stendahl, the main concern of Paul's writings on Jesus' role and salvation by faith is not the individual conscience of human sinners and their doubts about being chosen by God or not, but the main concern is the problem of the inclusion of Gentile (Greek) Torah-observers into God's covenant.    [web 4] "Hebrew" Jewish Christians opposed Paul's interpretations,  as exemplified by the Ebionites. The relaxing of requirements in Pauline Christianity opened the way for a much larger Christian Church, extending far beyond the Jewish community. The inclusion of Gentiles is reflected in Luke-Acts, which is an attempt to answer a theological problem, namely how the Messiah of the Jews came to have an overwhelmingly non-Jewish church the answer it provides, and its central theme, is that the message of Christ was sent to the Gentiles because the Jews rejected it. 
Split with Judaism Edit
There was a slowly growing chasm between Gentile Christians, and Jews and Jewish Christians, rather than a sudden split. Even though it is commonly thought that Paul established a Gentile church, it took centuries for a complete break to manifest. Growing tensions led to a starker separation that was virtually complete by the time Jewish Christians refused to join in the Bar Khokba Jewish revolt of 132.  Certain events are perceived as pivotal in the growing rift between Christianity and Judaism.
Roman Empire Edit
Christianity spread to Aramaic-speaking peoples along the Mediterranean coast and also to the inland parts of the Roman Empire,  and beyond that into the Parthian Empire and the later Sasanian Empire, including Mesopotamia, which was dominated at different times and to varying extents by these empires. In AD 301, the Kingdom of Armenia became the first state to declare Christianity as its state religion, following the conversion of the Royal House of the Arsacids in Armenia. With Christianity the dominant faith in some urban centers, Christians accounted for approximately 10% of the Roman population by 300, according to some estimates. 
By the latter half of the second century, Christianity had spread east throughout Media, Persia, Parthia, and Bactria. The twenty bishops and many presbyters were more of the order of itinerant missionaries, passing from place to place as Paul did and supplying their needs with such occupations as merchant or craftsman.
Various theories attempt to explain how Christianity managed to spread so successfully prior to the Edict of Milan (313). In The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark argues that Christianity replaced paganism chiefly because it improved the lives of its adherents in various ways.  Dag Øistein Endsjø argues that Christianity was helped by its promise of a general resurrection of the dead at the end of the world which was compatible with the traditional Greek belief that true immortality depended on the survival of the body.  According to Will Durant, the Christian Church prevailed over paganism because it offered a much more attractive doctrine, and because the church leaders addressed human needs better than their rivals. 
Bart D. Ehrman attributes the rapid spread of Christianity to five factors: (1) the promise of salvation and eternal life for everyone was an attractive alternative to Roman religions (2) stories of miracles and healings purportedly showed that the one Christian God was more powerful than the many Roman gods (3) Christianity began as a grassroots movement providing hope of a better future in the next life for the lower classes (4) Christianity took worshipers away from other religions since converts were expected to give up the worship of other gods, unusual in antiquity where worship of many gods was common (5) in the Roman world, converting one person often meant converting the whole household—if the head of the household was converted, he decided the religion of his wife, children and slaves. 
Persecutions and legalisation Edit
There was no empire-wide persecution of Christians until the reign of Decius in the third century. [web 5] As the Roman Empire experienced the Crisis of the Third Century, the emperor Decius enacted measures intended to restore stability and unity, including a requirement that Roman citizens affirm their loyalty through religious ceremonies pertaining to Imperial cult. In 212, universal citizenship had been granted to all freeborn inhabitants of the empire, and with the edict of Decius enforcing religious conformity in 250, Christian citizens faced an intractable conflict: any citizen who refused to participate in the empire-wide supplicatio was subject to the death penalty.  Although lasting only a year,  the Decian persecution was a severe departure from previous imperial policy that Christians were not to be sought out and prosecuted as inherently disloyal.  Even under Decius, orthodox Christians were subject to arrest only for their refusal to participate in Roman civic religion, and were not prohibited from assembling for worship. Gnostics seem not to have been persecuted. 
Christianity flourished during the four decades known as the "Little Peace of the Church", beginning with the reign of Gallienus (253–268), who issued the first official edict of tolerance regarding Christianity.  The era of coexistence ended when Diocletian launched the final and "Great" Persecution in 303.
The Edict of Serdica was issued in 311 by the Roman emperor Galerius, officially ending the Diocletianic persecution of Christianity in the East. With the passage in AD 313 of the Edict of Milan, in which the Roman Emperors Constantine the Great and Licinius legalised the Christian religion, persecution of Christians by the Roman state ceased. [web 6]
According to Indian Christian traditions, following previous migration by Jews,  Christianity arrived along the southern Indian Malabar Coast via Thomas the Apostle in 52 AD  and from this came Thomasine Christianity. Although little is known of the immediate growth of the church, Bar-Daisan (AD 154–223) reports that in his time there were Christian tribes in North India, which claimed to have been converted by Thomas and to have books and relics to prove it.  Certainly by the time of the establishment of the Sassanid Empire (AD 226), there were bishops of the Church of the East in northwest India, Afghanistan and Baluchistan, with laymen and clergy alike engaging in missionary activity. 
Legalisation and Roman state religion Edit
In 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan, officially legalizing Christian worship. In 316, Constatine acted as a judge in a North African dispute concerning the Donatist controversy. More significantly, in 325 he summoned the Council of Nicaea, effectively the first Ecumenical Council (unless the Council of Jerusalem is so classified), to deal mostly with the Arian controversy, but which also issued the Nicene Creed, which among other things professed a belief in One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, the start of Christendom.
On February 27, 380, the Roman Empire officially adopted Trinitarian Nicene Christianity as its state religion.  Prior to this date, Constantius II (337-361) and Valens (364-378) had personally favored Arian or Semi-Arianism forms of Christianity, but Valens' successor Theodosius I supported the Trinitarian doctrine as expounded in the Nicene Creed.
In the several centuries of state-sponsored Christianity that followed, pagans and heretical Christians were routinely persecuted by the Empire and the many kingdoms and countries that later occupied the place of the Empire,  but some Germanic tribes remained Arian well into the Middle Ages. 
Church of the East Edit
Historically, the most widespread Christian church in Asia was the Church of the East, the Christian church of Sasanian Persia. This church is often known as the Nestorian Church, due to its adoption of the doctrine of Nestorianism, which emphasized the disunity of the divine and human natures of Christ. It has also been known as the Persia Church, the East Syrian Church, the Assyrian Church, and, in China, as the "Luminous Religion".
The Church of the East developed almost wholly apart from the Greek and Roman churches. In the 5th century, it endorsed the doctrine of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople from 428 to 431, especially following the Nestorian Schism after the condemnation of Nestorius for heresy at the First Council of Ephesus. For at least twelve hundred years the Church of the East was noted for its missionary zeal, its high degree of lay participation, its superior educational standards and cultural contributions in less developed countries, and its fortitude in the face of persecution.
Persian Empires Edit
The Church of the East had its inception at a very early date in the buffer zone between the Parthian and Roman Empires in Upper Mesopotamia, and Edessa (now Şanlıurfa) in northwestern Mesopotamia was from apostolic times the principal center of Syriac-speaking Christianity. When early Christians were scattered abroad because of persecution, some found refuge at Edessa. The missionary movement in the East began which gradually spread throughout Mesopotamia and Persia and by AD 280. While the rulers of the Second Persian Empire (226-640) also followed a policy of religious toleration, to begin with, they later gave Christians the same status as a subject race. These rulers encouraged the revival of the ancient Persian dualistic faith of Zoroastrianism and established it as the state religion, with the result that the Christians were increasingly subjected to repressive measures. Nevertheless, it was not until Christianity became the state religion in the West that enmity toward Rome was focused on the Eastern Christians.
The metropolis of Seleucia assumed the title of "Catholicos", (Patriarch) and in AD 424 a council of the church at Seleucia elected the first patriarch to have jurisdiction over the whole church of the East, including India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The establishment of an independent patriarchate with nine subordinate metropolises contributed to a more favorable attitude by the Persian government, which no longer had to fear an ecclesiastical alliance with the common enemy, Rome.
Fourth-century persecution Edit
When Constantine converted to Christianity, and the Roman Empire which was previously violently anti-Christian became pro-Christian, the Persian Empire, suspecting a new "enemy within", became violently anti-Christian. The great persecution fell upon the Christians in Persia about the year 340. Though the religious motives were never unrelated, the primary cause of the persecution was political.
It was about 315 that an ill-advised letter from the Christian emperor Constantine to his Persian counterpart Shapur II probably triggered the beginnings of an ominous change in the Persian attitude toward Christians. Constantine believed he was writing to help his fellow believers in Persia but succeeded only in exposing them. He wrote to the young shah:
I rejoice to hear that the fairest provinces of Persia are adorned with. Christians. Since you are so powerful and pious, I commend them to your care, and leave them in your protection  ". It was enough to make any Persian ruler conditioned by 300 years of war with Rome suspicious of the emergence of a fifth column. Any lingering doubts must have been dispelled when about twenty years later when Constantine began to gather his forces for war in the East. Eusebius records that Roman bishops were prepared to accompany their emperor to "battle with him and for him by prayers to God whom all victory proceeds".  And across the border in Persian territory the forthright Persian preacher Aphrahat recklessly predicted on the basis of his reading of Old Testament prophecy that Rome would defeat Persia. 
It is little wonder then, that when the persecutions began shortly thereafter, the first accusation brought against the Christians was that they were aiding the Roman enemy. Shah Shapur II's response was to order double taxation on Christians and to hold the bishop responsible for collecting it. He knew they were poor and that the bishop would be hard-pressed to find the money. Bishop Simon refused to be intimidated. He branded the tax as unjust and declared, "I am no tax collector but a shepherd of the Lord's flock." Then the killings began.
A second decree ordered the destruction of churches and the execution of clergy who refused to participate in the national worship of the sun. Bishop Simon was seized and brought before the shah and was offered gifts to make a token obeisance to the sun, and when he refused, they cunningly tempted him with the promise that if he alone would apostatize his people would not be harmed, but that if he refused he would be condemning not just the church leaders but all Christians to destruction. At that, the Christians themselves rose up and refused to accept such deliverance as shameful. So according to the tradition in the year 344, he was led outside the city of Susa along with a large number of Christian clergy. Five bishops and one hundred priests were beheaded before his eyes, and last of all he himself was put to death. 
For the next two decades and more, Christians were tracked down and hunted from one end of the empire to the other. At times the pattern was a general massacre. More often, as Shapur decreed, it was intensively organized elimination of the leadership of the church, the clergy. The third category of suppression was the search for that part of the Christian community that was most vulnerable to persecution, Persians who had been converted from the national religion, Zoroastrianism. As we have already seen, the faith had spread first among non-Persian elements in the population, Jews and Syrians. But by the beginning of the 4th century, Iranians in increasing numbers were attracted to the Christian faith. For such converts, church membership could mean the loss of everything – family, property rights, and life itself. Converts from the "national faith" had no rights and, in the darker years of the persecution, were often put to death. Sometime before the death of Shapur II in 379, the intensity of the persecution slackened. Tradition calls it forty-year persecution, lasting from 339-379 and ending only with Shapur's death.
Christianity became the official religion of Armenia in 301 or 314,  when Christianity was still illegal in the Roman Empire. Some [ who? ] claim the Armenian Apostolic Church was founded by Gregory the Illuminator of the late third – early fourth centuries while they trace their origins to the missions of Bartholomew the Apostle and Thaddeus (Jude the Apostle) in the 1st century.
Christianity in Georgia (ancient Iberia) extends back to the 4th century, if not earlier.  The Iberian king, Mirian III, converted to Christianity, probably in 326. 
According to the fourth-century Western historian Rufinius, it was Frumentius who brought Christianity to Ethiopia (the city of Axum) and served as its first bishop, probably shortly after 325. 
Here’s How the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Changed Our Lives
To say that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the world would be an understatement. In less than a year since the virus emerged — and just over 6 months since tracking began in the United States — it’s upended day-to-day lives across the globe.
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The pandemic has changed how we work, learn and interact as social distancing guidelines have led to a more virtual existence, both personally and professionally.
But a new survey, commissioned by Parade magazine and Cleveland Clinic, reveals the pandemic has also changed how Americans approach their health and health care in ways both positive and negative.
Conducted by Ipsos, the survey was given to a nationally representative sample of 1000 American adults 18 years of age & older, living in the U.S.
Here’s what the survey found.
Mental health challenges
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has triggered a wave of mental health issues. Whether it’s managing addiction, depression, social isolation or just the general stress that’s resulted from COVID-19, we’re all feeling it.
It seems to especially be hitting younger people. Of those surveyed, 55% reported experiencing mental health issues since the onset of the pandemic, including 74% of respondents in the 18-to-34-year-old age range.
Of those respondents, four of the most common issues were:
- Stress (33% overall 42% of 18-to-34-year-olds)
- Anxiety (30% overall 40% of 18-to-34-year-olds)
- Depression (24% overall 31% of 18-to-34-year-olds)
- Loneliness or isolation (24% overall 31% of 18-to-34-year-olds)
Many are also feeling overwhelmed by the constant, sometimes shifting and conflicting flow of information around the virus and the pandemic. Overall, 41% of those surveyed claimed that they were so overwhelmed by COVID-19 news and information that they weren’t paying attention.
While much of the world has come to a stop at times during the pandemic, the need for health care has not. Yet, 38% of respondents said they skipped or delayed preventive health care visits because of the pandemic even though health care providers have gone to great lengths to ensure that keeping those appointments are safe for everyone.
Women are more likely to skip these appointments than men, 46% to 29%, and as many as 15% of total respondents avoided visits for more serious issues like injury or even chest pain.
“In a time when we need to be able to focus on keeping ourselves as healthy as we can, we must not skip preventive visits to our healthcare providers. When we miss early signs of disease, we allow it to grow into a serious or even life-threatening illness,” says infectious disease expert Kristin Englund, MD.
“Our clinics and hospitals are taking every precaution available to assure patients are safe from COVID-19 within our walls. We cannot let fear of one disease keep us from doing what we need to do to stay healthy,” she continues.
This is especially true for children who need to continue their routine immunizations. As pediatrician Skyler Kalady, MD, points out, “We can’t lose sight of other diseases that children will be at high risk for contracting, like measles and pertussis (whooping cough), without those regular vaccinations.”
Staying healthy during the pandemic
But there is good news as far as respondents’ health is concerned. From lifestyle changes to better eating habits, people are using this time to get healthier in many areas.
Since the pandemic started, nearly two-thirds of the survey’s participants (62%) say they’ve made a significant lifestyle change, including:
- More time outdoors or experiencing nature.
- Improved sleep patterns.
- Starting or modifying an exercise program.
- Other healthy dietary changes.
Eating and exercise are new areas of focus for many respondents. One-third of the participants (34%) say they’re eating more healthy food and most (a whopping 87%) say they’ll keep the habit up.
Meanwhile over a quarter of respondents (28%) say they’ve increased their exercise frequency during the pandemic, perhaps a sign that more people are embracing the advantages of working out at home while gyms remain a risky venture.
Better health awareness
There’s more to healthy living than just exercising and food, though. And 68% of respondents said that the pandemic has them paying more attention to certain risk factors for other health issues. That number is even higher (77%) for those younger respondents, 18-to-34 years old. Some of those risk factors include:
- Stress, anxiety, depression and mental health (37%).
- Risk factors for chronic diseases, autoimmune or other chronic diseases (36%).
- Weight (32%).
- Physical fitness (28%).
- Lung health (15%).
Additionally, the pandemic is motivating people to take better care of more serious issues with 41% of respondents who already have a chronic condition saying they’ll now be even more likely to comply with treatment.
Family and the pandemic
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen both benefits and drawbacks of being cooped up with family for long periods of time. And there’s certainly been added stress for families who have had to deal with remote learning situations for school-aged children.
Some, though, reported positive experiences with their families in such close quarters. Overall, 34% of those who responded said that they feel closer to their family and, in households with kids, 52% reported feeling like they’ve forged new connections. Additionally, 78% agreed that quarantine made them value their relationships.
As for that stress with kids, 27% of those surveyed who have kids in their households say their children have benefited from being able to spend more time with family.
As flu season looms and the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, it’s especially important that everyone get a flu shot this year. According to the survey, 26% of respondents said they’re now more likely to get a flu shot. And among adults 18-to-34-years old, 35% are more likely to get vaccinated against the flu.
As for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, 60% of respondents said that yes, they absolutely would get that vaccine when available. Of those who answered no or that they weren’t sure if they’d get the COVID-19 vaccine, the top reasons given were concerns about potential side effects (61%) and concerns about the efficacy of the vaccine (53%).
In the short term, those who took the survey show a dedication to being safe and following guidelines for the foreseeable future. And that’s where their concerns remain, too.
Of those surveyed, 78% say they won’t spend the holidays as they normally do with only 9% planning to attend holiday church services and only 12% planning to attend holiday parades or New Year’s Eve firework celebrations.
Respondents are also putting common personal interactions on hold with 78% saying they won’t shake hands with people through the end of the year and only 13% saying they will hug a non-family member.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that a resurgence of COVID-19 is a big concern among those surveyed. Over half (59%) said they were concerned about another surge of cases while 44% said they’re worried about another round of quarantine.
It’s also not a surprise to see that two-thirds (68%) of respondents aged 55 years or older, the group with the highest risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, are concerned about another surge of cases.
Despite these concerns and the difficulties faced throughout the pandemic, those who responded to the survey also showed that they’ve managed to find positives in their experiences.
Overall, 78% of those surveyed said that while quarantine and social distancing was difficult, it’s made them value their relationships. Meanwhile, 65% said the pandemic has made them reevaluate how they spend their time and 58% said it’s made them reevaluate their life goals.
And while 58% say that the pandemic has changed their way of life forever, nearly three-quarters (72%) said that they still have hope for the future.
In the developed world, we are now far more likely to die from non-communicable diseases like cancer, heart disease or Alzheimer’s than from a contagion
In the developed world, and increasingly in the developing world, we are now far more likely to die from non-communicable diseases like cancer, heart disease or Alzheimer’s than from a contagion. The decline of infectious disease is the best evidence that life on this planet truly is getting better.
The polio vaccine, shown here studied by scientists in the 1950s, eliminated, in most of the world, a disease in that used to kill or disable millions (Credit: Getty Images)
While reporting my book End Times, I visited the epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch at his office at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston one rainy morning in the spring of 2018. Lipsitch is one of the most influential epidemiologists in the United States, and one who takes seriously the possibility that disease pandemics might constitute a true global catastrophic risk – which is why I was there to see him.
But that morning Lipsitch showed me something I wasn’t expecting: a chart that graphed infectious disease mortality in the United States over the course of the 20th Century.
What it shows is a drastic decline, from around 800 deaths from infectious disease per 100,000 people in 1900 to about 60 deaths per 100,000 by the last years of the century. There was a brief spike in 1918 – that would be the flu – and a slight and temporary upturn during the worst of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. But, Lipsitch told me, “death rates from infectious disease dropped by nearly 1% a year, about 0.8 % per year, all the way through the century.”
Not over yet
That’s the good news. The bad news, as Covid-19 reminds us, is that infectious diseases haven’t vanished. In fact, there are more new ones now than ever: the number of new infectious diseases like Sars, HIV and Covid-19 has increased by nearly fourfold over the past century. Since 1980 alone, the number of outbreaks per year has more than tripled.
A hard lesson
Washington’s wisdom came from personal experience with the horrors of an epidemic. “Was strongly attacked by the small Pox,” Washington wrote as a teenager in 1751, while visiting the Caribbean island of Barbados. At the time, the disease caused by the variola virus killed as many as one in two victims. Washington was lucky. After nearly a month of chills, fever, and painful pustules, he emerged with the pockmarked face typical of survivors—but alive, and with immunity to the illness.
“[I will] continue the utmost Vigilance against this most dangerous enemy.”
Washington’s encounter with the virus proved fortunate for the new nation. In 1775, smallpox arrived in Boston, carried by troops sent from Britain, Canada, and Germany to stamp out the growing rebellion. Many of these soldiers had been exposed and were therefore immune, but the vast majority of American colonists were not.
In the aftermath of the battles of Lexington and Concord, Washington’s Continental Army had set up camp across the Charles River from the stricken city. To the dismay of many patriots seeking refuge from the British, the general prohibited anyone from Boston from entering the military zone. “Every precaution must be used to prevent its spreading,” he sternly warned one of his subordinates about the virus. To John Hancock, the president of the Continental Congress, Washington vowed to “continue the utmost Vigilance against this most dangerous enemy.”
By immediately isolating anyone suspected of infection and limiting outside contact, Washington “prevented a disastrous epidemic among the Continental troops,” historian Ann Becker says. In March 1776, when the British withdrew from Boston, Washington even specified that only soldiers who had suffered from smallpox be allowed into the city and its surroundings.
The great migration: how modern humans spread across the world
It was probably a warm interglacial interlude within the Ice Age, between about 130,000 and 90,000 years ago, that initially triggered large-scale Homo sapiens migrations across Africa.
Then, from about 70,000 years ago, the climate cooled, causing glaciers to form on the tops of mountain ranges so that parts of north-west and north-east Africa were cut off from each other, as well as from the south. As Charles Darwin discovered, whenever a species is physically separated, small variations begin to creep into its respective gene pools, creating diversity. So it was with modern man, giving us our four main ethnic groups: Khoisan (African), Caucasian (European), Mongolian (Chinese and American Indian) and Aboriginal (Australian).
From about 60,000 years ago, these four groups of humans emigrated from Africa separately and in their own time across the world, taking their small genetic differences with them. Some Homo sapiens swept across Asia, displacing the last of the Neanderthals either by depriving them of food, or by hunting them, or maybe occasionally by absorbing them into their own species through limited interbreeding. Some turned south and reached India and China. They learnt to build rafts. From about 40,000 years ago, Australia, for many millions of years the preserve of marsupial mammals, became another human hunting-ground, as the first people paddled ashore.
The first Homo sapiens to arrive in Europe walked eastwards out of Africa about 50,000 years ago, and then came north via the Middle East. They brought with them enormous changes in lifestyles, technology and culture, including the world's first spears that were specially designed for flight, rather than for close-range use as with Neanderthal-style clubs.
The time from about 50,000 years ago marks the start of the final second before midnight on the 24-hour clock of Earth history. This period has been described as "the Great Leap Forward", because the complexity of human tools increased dramatically. Bones, tusks and antlers were used for the first time to carve out ornaments as well as to craft useful household items such as needles for sewing, and spoon-like oil lamps that burned animal fats. Jewellery, in the form of necklaces and pendants, has been found buried inside graves of these people. The first ceramic pots date from this period, as do the world's first known sculptures, such as the Venus of Willendorf, a female fertility figure found in Austria in 1908 which is thought to date from about 24,000 years ago. Some of the first known cave paintings date back to the same era. They can be seen to this day in the caves of Lascaux, in the Dordogne region of France.
The Earth was far cooler back then. The last of the great ice sheets swept down from the North Pole about 22,000 years ago, to disappear rather quickly 12,000 years later. During this time some people adapted to the changes in climate by developing paler skin that helped produce sufficient quantities of vitamin D for bone formation despite the weaker sunlight of the Ice Age.
Homo sapiens arrived in Britain about 20,000 years ago. They walked across the Channel from France, since it didn't flood until the end of the last big Ice Age melt, about 10,000 years ago. But they weren't the first to arrive. Up to seven previous attempts were made by earlier people to populate the British Isles, starting with Homo erectus some 700,000 years ago. Each time, the populations of humans died out, probably because of the horrendously icy conditions that periodically swept over the islands as far south as present-day London. Even in the far south, the cold would sometimes have been too much for any type of human to bear.
About 15,000 years ago, giant glaciers still locked up much of the Earth's waters, sinking sea levels so that a massive land bridge the size of Poland, called Beringia, connected the eastern tip of Russia to Alaska across what is now a 95km-wide stretch of sea called the Bering Strait. In those days people could cross by foot from Asia to North America, a land that had until then probably been free from human habitation (although some scientists think people may have rafted there a few thousand years before from south Asia, via the Pacific islands). North and South America were the last of the great habitable continents to be populated by man, and are still appropriately called "the New World" even today. It was an opportunistic walk all the way across Asia, following big animals, hunting on the move, making the most of nature's twisting and turning climate changes.
With another land bridge via Panama linking the two great Americas, it wasn't long before the first people from North America wandered down to the southern American continent where the climate was warmer and the land rich in vegetation and game.
The arrival of Stone Age humans in this part of the world – as in Australia – came with dramatic consequences for much of the world's wildlife. Although a few of nature's ecosystems lingered on without any human representation – New Zealand and Iceland were untouched by humans until about AD800 or later – many of the world's living creatures were by now beginning to succumb to mankind's growing influence as he spread out to envelop the whole of planet Earth.
Until about 30 years ago, astronomers thought that the universe was composed almost entirely of ordinary atoms, or "baryonic matter," According to NASA. However, recently there has been ever more evidence that suggests most of the ingredients making up the universe come in forms that we cannot see.
It turns out that atoms only make up 4.6 percent of the universe. Of the remainder, 23 percent is made up of dark matter, which is likely composed of one or more species of subatomic particles that interact very weakly with ordinary matter, and 72 percent is made of dark energy, which apparently is driving the accelerating expansion of the universe.
When it comes to the atoms we are familiar with, hydrogen makes up about 75 percent, while helium makes up about 25 percent, with heavier elements making up only a tiny fraction of the universe's atoms, according to NASA.
Some preliminary evidence from Britain suggests that people infected with the new variant tend to carry greater amounts of the virus in their noses and throats than those infected with previous versions.
“We’re talking in the range between 10-fold greater and 10,000-fold greater,” said Michael Kidd, a clinical virologist at Public Health England and a clinical adviser to the British government who has studied the phenomenon.
There are other explanations for the finding — Dr. Kidd and his colleagues did not have access to information about when in their illness people were tested, for example, which could affect their so-called viral loads.
Still, the finding does offer one possible explanation for why the new variant spreads more easily. The more virus that infected people harbor in their noses and throats, the more they expel into the air and onto surfaces when they breathe, talk, sing, cough or sneeze.
As a result, situations that expose people to the virus carry a greater chance of seeding new infections. Some new data indicate that people infected with the new variant spread the virus to more of their contacts.
With previous versions of the virus, contact tracing suggested that about 10 percent of people who have close contact with an infected person — within six feet for at least 15 minutes — inhaled enough virus to become infected.
“With the variant, we might expect 15 percent of those,” Dr. Bedford said. “Currently risky activities become more risky.”
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That in turn has given us the ability to figure out how things go wrong in genetic diseases and potentially how to fix them. Scientists were recently able to modify the genes of a young girl to cure her cancer.
We are no longer a complete black box, although our complexity is such that we are only just beginning to understand how our genes regulate the body and how they interact with our environment.
Genetic technologies are likely to present society with some big questions about how we see ourselves and what we want to use our greater understanding and capability for.
That is also true of the Big Bang theory of how the Universe came into existence. A hundred years ago mysteries such as how the Universe came to exist were, for many, firmly in the realms of faith.
Spurred on by the observation that the Universe is not constant, but galaxies are always expanding away from each other, we were able to work out that the Universe began with a Big Bang from a single point.
This knowledge gives us insight into perhaps what is the biggest question of all - where did everything come from? That insight makes our small blue dot seem increasingly small, yet our quest for knowledge of what is out there shows no signs of an inferiority complex.
From the Apollo missions to the Cassini probe, the Hubble telescope to the search for gravitational waves and exoplanets - all of those breakthroughs seem to be making us more inquisitive about space.
Today, much of how we see the world is through an electronic screen. Computers in all their many guises are sources of knowledge, but they are also increasingly how we present ourselves to the rest of the world, and how we interact with others.
Even a ubiquitous object like a smartphone depends on many fundamental discoveries. Its powerful computer depends on integrated chips made up of transistors, whose discovery depended on an understanding of quantum mechanics.
The GPS in a smart phone depends on correcting the time from satellites using both the special and general theories of relativity - theories that people once thought would have no practical value. I wonder how many understand all the discoveries that make the little box work.
Computers are also driving developments that will continue to challenge our view of the world. Machines that learn are already among us and are changing the world in which we live.
They offer great potential in areas including healthcare and improving other public services, and may soon result in driverless cars and very sophisticated robots, but we need to make conscious decisions about how we want smart machines to allow humanity to flourish.
Discoveries themselves are morally neutral, but the use we make of them are not. One discovery that shifted our view of the world in two distinctly divergent directions was nuclear fission. Its discovery led to the development of the most destructive weapons known.
Some argue that the fear of destruction has been a powerful motivator for peace, but this is hardly a stable solution as can be seen with today's situation with North Korea. On the other hand, nuclear fission also promised a reliable source of energy that was once optimistically predicted to be 'too cheap to meter'.
Science is the pursuit of knowledge about ourselves and the world around us. That pursuit of knowledge has also shaped the way we view the world, as has the application of the knowledge. It has transformed our lives, generally for the better.
We live nearly twice as long today as our ancestors did in 1900 and the quality of our lives is far better than it was then.
But the uses of science and technology are not shaped by science and scientists alone. They depend on an interplay of cultural, economic and political factors.
Science is a triumph of human knowledge and we can all share in its excitement. At the same time, understanding its many uses can help us be engaged in decisions that affect us all.
Will English remain number one?
Some people suggest that English has become ubiquitous because it is “easy to learn” or especially flexible, but a glance backwards suggests that this is irrelevant. Despite a devilishly complex case system, Latin was Europe’s most influential language for over a thousand years (and its descendents are still going strong). People learned Latin then for the same reasons they learn English now: to get ahead in life and have access to knowledge. Yet now Latin is only spoken by priests and scholars.
Languages and borders change over time, but English is likely to remain the world’s number one language during our lifetimes.