The Corona Virus
the House in the Country
Our information about the world we get from the radio, the internet and speaking to our friends. I feel we are up to date with the news, but I realize more and more that in the media, facts about a virus are often presented in a wrong way and can cause confusion
Trump keeps implying that this lengthy process will be shortened, maybe by cutting through regulations and the proven review process, and the experts keep following him and saying that won’t happen. The proper follow up questions reporters should be asking should focus on how this process can be streamlined to save lives now. The process is sound, but the need for change is dire.
At the moment the scientists in the Corona Task Force are collecting data not only from the United States, but also from all the other countries on the globe. They face problems because not all countries use the same method to report data, and also they have not tested enough patients in their country. Even in the U.S. more testing has to be done to have enough data to work with. The goal should be to test almost all people. Then we would also find out who had the virus with mild symptoms and who did not go to the doctor. Scientists also suspect that some people were infected but did not know it. So it will be important to test as many people as possible to get a clear picture. We did not have a test for this virus sitting on the shelf. It’s new and one has to be developed- which also takes time. Doing this and also testing the blood for antibodies (also a new test) will tell the ultimate story, and takes time.
One of the first things our scientists must determine are the actual causes of death. These data are crucial for mapping the spread and behavior of this virus. The data is being gathered from all over the world. But there are difficulties in this seemingly simple and straightforward data point. Not all countries are reporting things in the same way or with uniform health codes. Also, this virus seems to be more lethal in people that have certain - but very different, underlying conditions, and mostly in the elderly. So how was a death recorded? Was it a heart attack, liver failure, COPD? Were these already afflicted people living with the condition for years and only died when infected with corona? In which case should it be classified with corona or heart disease? All these disparate facts need to be properly and uniformly recorded before we can begin to look for answers.
Sweden is taking this approach. They are not social distancing or closing down businesses. New viruses tend to burn quickly through an unprotected population. So they are taking the view that they need only to shelter their elderly for a brief period of time, until enough of their people have been exposed and develop antibodies, to get the herd immunity effect. It is a bold move and we will see what happens. Many there are very angry, saying that they did not give their informed consent for the government to take such a great risk with their health.
But two enterprising researchers found a way. To test the theory, Janice Moore and Chris Reiber designed a trial around a flu vaccine (because it has most of the virus’ molecules, but without the infectious bits), which became most contagious 2-3 days after exposure, but before symptoms developed. They used 36 subjects who were unaware of what they were tracking, and rated their sociability before and after inoculation. The results were astonishing! In the first three days after inoculation (the most contagious period), the subjects interacted with other people twice as often as before the injection! Reiber said that “...people who had very limited or simple social lives were suddenly deciding that they needed to go out to bars or parties or invite a bunch of people over”. Why did their behavior change? We don’t know. Despite many anecdotal cases, it is a very hard thing to research. So maybe we’re on to something with extreme social distancing- just in case.
So take all the advice and guidance with a grain of salt. We won’t really have any answers for maybe a year at best.