Friday, 24 April 2020

The unpleasant truth about Corona!

The Corona virus is highly infectious and can be passed on without the vector (the person spreading the infection) showing any symptoms at the time.

The other reason why this virus is so scary is that, unlike influenza, it can be fatal even to some young, fit and healthy individuals.

So, when considering any population (e.g. an island or a country or a state), the only way that the infection can be stopped is either a significant proportion of that population develops an immunity OR we quarantine EVERY INDIVIDUAL IN THE COUNTRY until there is no further sign of infection. If a population has been locked down in this way however, it only takes one 'foreign' visitor to re-infect the whole country again!

I say a 'significant number', because if an infected person arrives into the country from somewhere-land, they will only be able to pass on the virus if they come into contact with another person who is not already immune. So if 70% of the population are immune, then the virus is not likely to infect anyone else as long as the visitor is quarantined as soon as they show any symptoms (or at least only infect 1 or 2 others at most who are also quickly quarantined).

So, for the sake of argument, let us say that the critical point is when 70% of the population develop immunity, then we can all go back to living virtually normal lives and the virus should die out as it can only survive for approximately 72 hours (or just a few minutes if you stick them in a microwave!).

So how do we get a population which is 70% immune? 

Well either through vaccination or because they have already had Covid-19 and are therefore immune (at least for a year or two?) to being re-infected (and presumably from being a vector?).

Since even the most optimistic guesstimate for a vaccine is 6 months away (and then a vaccine won't be available in any quantity for a while!), we must resign ourselves to a large number of us getting infected. We can't hide forever!

Even if we did manage to stop the virus with a full lockdown, and the population reached only a 50% 'herd immunity' level, it might easily start up again with the arrival of a few infected visitors travelling on the London underground or coughing whilst watching the Royal Ballet!

So what we need to do is carefully control the exposure rate of the normal, healthy population so that all those healthy people will eventually contract the disease (with an inevitable percentage of deaths), whilst protecting the 'at risk' portion of the population (older people, people in confined spaces like care homes, prisons or people with health problems).

This means that the hospitals, care homes, prisons and the homes of 'at risk' people need to take strict viral infection control precautions. They should be taught what to do and be supplied with the necessary protective equipment (or buy it themselves). This applies to all health workers, care home workers and any other members of the public who have to come into close contact with others, etc. During that time we must learn to cut our own hair, paint our own nails and clean our teeth really well to avoid needing to go to the dentist. We also need to stay healthy but go to work, if we cannot work from home.

During this time, the government must control the degree of severity of a population 'lockdown' so as not to saturate our hospitals and hospital workers and to ensure we have enough beds and equipment for both Covid-19 cases and the normal patient beds for essential operations and treatments.

This state of affairs will continue until we get to a point where 70% of the population (ish!) has 'herd immunity'.

The reason why you don't hear the phrase 'herd immunity' any more in the UK is because the government realised that the UK public might start to understand (correctly) that this means the only way to get 'herd immunity' is for a significant proportion of the population to die!

How will we know when we get to 70% 'herd' immunity?

Well simply, less and less people will die each month (because we can't test everybody)! We will 'unlock' the population a little at a time, keeping the hospitals at 70%, until we can almost fully 'unlock' and we see the hospitals beds freeing up.

Either we test the entire population of the country for antibodies (resistance) or we simply drip-feed the 'uninfected herd' to the virus until gradually we reach that 70%-80% point and we stop getting infected (and dying).

So how can we fight this?

The answer does not lie in testing for the antibodies or antigens in the population (i.e. looking to see if the patient is still breathing!). We are all (60-80% of us!) going to get Covid-19, so the best thing that can happen is that we don't die from it.

If you are in the 'at-risk' category, then stay isolated!

The best way to fight this is for the whole world to collaborate and find a safe treatment and\or drug which is effective in curing the serious cases. As soon most of the population know that even if we become ill with Covid-19 then we are very unlikely to die from it, then we will quickly reach the 70% saturation point. Along the way some 'at risk' people will die, but the quicker the 'fit and healthy' population get infected and we get 'herd immunity', the quicker the virus will disappear and the fewer 'at risk' people will die.

So we should be pulling out all the stops into looking for an effective treatment. There are many hundreds of potential drugs available, both in the development pipeline of the various drug companies and also those drugs which are already in use (but for other diseases). This is where the WHO should be concentrating it's efforts - all the hospitals in the world should be trialling the different potential drug candidates in an organised manner as effectively as possible and without unnecessary duplication - not just each individual country doing it's own thing!

Once we have achieved 'herd-immunity' we just need to jump on any new cases until the rest of the population, who haven't already had it yet, can be vaccinated.

These opinions are my own personal perspective, yours may differ. Please do not try to 'cure' yourself by injecting disinfectant or any other substance into your body. Always consult a doctor (and not the President of a country).

P.S. Comparing  the number of Covid-19 deaths in different countries is a pointless exercise because we all need to reach that 'herd immunity' saturation point (or get vaccinated) - some countries will reach it faster than others. What we should be doing however, is examining the mortality rate of the critically ill Covid-19 patients. In the Western world, we should expect these to be very similar because the hospitals should all have access to the same equipment (respirators, oxygen, etc.), treatment and care. Now if we see a difference in those recovery rates, we should be asking why!

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