We’re in the midst of what is a pretty worrying potential pandemic.
As many point out, now is not the time to panic wildy, although it is worth looking at ways that you can minimise your chances of infection.
Our own health department may have lost the plot on Twitter, but they do seem to have a plan aimed at combatting any kind of large-scale outbreak here in South Africa.
Much has also been made of the coronavirus mortality rate, and how it compares to other recent infectious outbreaks.
While we wait for a vaccine (that could take a while, but there are more than 20 in development, and some clinical trials are underway), it’s worth looking at what curtailed the spread of three recent deadly outbreaks.
Below from CNN, starting with Ebola:
Scientists often intervene during infectious outbreaks with vaccines and antiviral medications.
That was the case in 2014 when an outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa concluded with strains being “interrupted,” the World Health Organization said in March 2016. The outbreak ended after a “coordinated international response,” said Dr. Peter Hotez professor and dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
When another outbreak began in 2018, two treatments developed from the first outbreak were offered to all patients in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Great, so we just wait for that vaccine.
Hotez then sticks the dagger in, and says “with the amount of scrutiny in vaccine safety testing…it is not likely one will be available to the public in time to curb this outbreak”.
Things will get worse before they get better, I guess.
Let’s move onto SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which caused havoc until it was brought to an end in July 2003:
SARS is another strain of coronavirus that infected more than 8,000 people in 2003. By May of that year, it was burnt out, said Dr. Howard Markel, director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan.
How does an outbreak “burn out”? Sometimes, Markel said, it’s because the weather changes and sometimes it is because enough people have been infected and become immune.
“If I had to predict, I would say very likely by May or June or July this will burn itself out,” Markel said.
But, that doesn’t mean it would be gone for good.
Finally, there’s the H1N1 flu strain (also known as swine flu) that struck in 2009, a year perhaps best remembered for the global financial crash and the Black Eyed Peas song I Got A Feeling ruining house parties everywhere.
The H1N1 flu strain caused a pandemic in 2009, and now it has become a seasonally occurring virus.
Seasonal viruses can be seen year-round, but in the Northern Hemisphere cases tend to peak in the colder, winter months and fall when it gets warm, Hotez said.
There isn’t a clear understanding of why that is, he said, but the humidity levels and time spent huddled indoors are possible reasons.
Whether coronavirus will reoccur is anyone’s guess, Hotez said. There just isn’t enough evidence or enough time to make a good prediction.
In summary, it’s not clear how much we can learn from those three outbreaks above, but it’s clear that we’re not learning to be prepared for such an outbreak at all times.
On Sky News, two health professionals have outlined a best and worst-case scenario for what lies ahead.
Because it’s a Wednesday, and we don’t want to get too down too early in the morning, here is the best-case scenario:
Although the best-case scenario is the virus can be contained, Prof Jit [an expert on the mathematical modelling of infectious diseases] says this is unlikely.
A second-best eventuality is that countries will be able to slow the spread of the coronavirus, he says.
“We may be able to also push it into the summer months when maybe the virus is not as active and we won’t have, as in winter, the pressures that come from winter vomiting bug and everything else to take up hospital capacity.
If the epidemic is slower moving, “we will be able to ensure that people get the care they need and we can do our best to minimise the number of people who die”.
You can go ahead and read the worst-case scenarios here, if that’s your jam.
Wash your hands, people.
[imagesource: BBC] First, the older folk came for Facebook, and there were likes and co...
[imagesource:here] At the start of the month, the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill w...
If you're looking for a way to beef up your home security system, how about aeronautic sur...
[imagesource:here] In 39 days, the US will vote for their next president, and the rest ...
[imagesource: Matt Curnock / MOUA] When South Africa went into lockdown all those years...