In early 2020, our lives were upended by a new virus that caused the most severe pandemic in over a century. In the span of a few weeks, even visiting a grocery store became a task in risk assessment.
Cities and countries across the world closed their borders for their own citizens, as well as foreigners. Newspapers carried alarming accounts of rapidly rising numbers of COVID-positive cases, patients dying and migrant labourers desperately trying to reach home. One was struck every single day with the realization that the pandemic was not just a biological phenomenon, but also a social one.
Where did this virus, first called the novel coronavirus and later SARS coronavirus-2, come from? Did we see it coming? If so, why weren’t we better prepared for it? How lethal is it really? How can we protect ourselves from it? How will the pandemic end? What will life be like once it is over?
In his meticulously researched “COVID-19: Separating Fact from Fiction” (Penguin), Anirban Mahapatra demystifies the virus and offers us a historical perspective. He charts the scientific progress made in understanding how the virus infects us and how we fight back, and also looks at the social tensions it has uncovered. In doing so, he offers us a clarity that enables us not only to understand the virus but also to live with it.
Anirban Mahapatra has been involved in science and scientific publishing for over two decades. He’s written about numerous health- and biology-related topics including cancer, neuroscience and infectious diseases. He earned his PhD in microbiology at the Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio, US). Anirban takes a deep personal interest in microorganisms too. He likes to travel, cook, read and write poetry, and lives just outside Washington DC.