Remember the last time you were sick, after gorging on a large amount of ice-cream or getting wet in the rain? Do you also remember the never ending dose of hot water and woolen blankets?
This is the predicament faced a by stifling majority of the population. A 2003 research paper says that the United States alone spend 7.7 billion dollars in combat against the common cold. A British World War II poster says that the loss to the war effort due to common cold equals the work of 50,000 healthy men.
If more dangerous diseases like polio and rubella have vaccines and can be cured, why is the common cold an exception?
The answer lies in the fact that unlike most of the major diseases, whose varieties are limited to a few strains at most, the common cold is not caused by one type of virus but by at least 200 types of viruses each with many strains.
This added to the fact that common cold does not kill its host allows it to spread very easily, and affect more individuals. This causes the proteins on its surface to undergo constant change, thus rendering large scale vaccination useless. A clever pun on the saying, ‘Common Cold is uncommon indeed’ clearly encapsulates the whole predicament.
Though death from the common cold is unheard of, it causes lot of pain and irritation. One clear message to the scientific community is that humans need to move beyond mechanical solutions like vaccines and must move on to more organic methods of medicine like personal hygiene and natural immunity.