Greetings, my fellow runners!
The situation here in Denmark has changed dramatically during the last 24 hours. Last evening the Prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, initiated a number of quite dramatic policies. Among other things, schools, colleges, universities have shut down and will shut down for 2 weeks, initially. As we are speaking, all the teachers in the country are preparing online educational courses. All sporting events, concerts, cultural activities and so forth, are also shutting down these days.
In these dire times, we are being told to work together by working apart.
The reason of course, is the Corona virus, COVID-19. Being a virus it requires a host, in this case a human, and it spreads by people being in close approximation, by touching, coughing, sneezing etc.
Unfortunately, the virus is now a pandemic. Starting in China it is now spreading all over the world. Italy was the first country in Europe majorly affected, but now the number of infected people in other European countries is also rising, exponentially. So, unfortunately, is the number of casualties. Europe has become the new epicenter of the Corona virus.
I have read some of the posts on this site, regarding the virus. And I felt an urge to give you my point of view on this issue.
First, you see a lot of posts saying something like “It’s just another flu!” Well, yes and no. Like any other influenza, it is a virus. However, there are some significant differences.
- The corona virus is more contagious. Whereas a person infected by a regular influenza will infect on average 1,1 persons, a person infected with the corona virus will infect more people on average. Bear In mind, the Corona virus is new and the data on the virus are yet sparse. The numbers are therefore not bulletproof. But according to The World Health Organization, WHO, the rate of reproduction may actually be as high as 2,0- 2,5. The reason may be that the human immune system does not combat the corona virus as effectively as it does a regular flu virus. It may require fewer viral particles to get infected by the Corona virus.
- As many as 20% of the people infected by the Corona virus will need hospital care (WHO). Around 3-5% of the infected will be in a critical situation. Although these numbers are not bulletproof yet, there is a strong case in arguing that these numbers are significantly higher, compared to a regular flu.
- The mortality rates connected to the Corona virus are higher. It is impossible at this stage to say exactly how high the rates are. Some countries, like the States, have not tested many people. In these countries you have a very high mortality rate (currently around 3,6% in the States according to the WHO). This mortality rate is probably an exaggeration. One of the reasons is that many people who are affected will have almost none, few or very mild symptoms in connection to the disease. Hence, these people who are hardly affected (and, of course, in the end survive the Corona virus) will not be in touch with medical services, they will not be tested and they will not figure in the statistics.
In Italy the mortality rate is massive, currently around 6,2% (WHO). In addition to the problem with people not being tested (Currently, the medical services in some regions are massively overburdened), you also have problems concerning an old population, on average, and the fact that the virus struck down so early here. The country was simply not prepared.
However, if you look at South Korea, where people are vigilantly being tested as a part of the national strategy, the mortality rate is currently approximately 0,6 %. Bear in mind, that South Korea is currently one of the most successful countries with regards to containing and slowing the spread of the Corona virus.
Compare this to the 0,1 % mortality rate attached to the normal flu, you can see, that the mortality rate attached to the Corona virus is much higher.
The reason behind these higher numbers connected to the Corona virus may be that this virus attaches to receptors in the lungs, whereas a regular flu is more located in the upper regions, the nose, mouth and throat. The corona virus thus has a more critical effect on the lungs, often causing pneumonia thereby inhibiting normal breathing and oxidation of the blood.
- No one is yet immune to the Corona virus. Hence, the virus spreads faster and the virus affects more people. Furthermore, as of this moment there is no vaccination against the Corona virus. With regular flus, old and vulnerable people may be vaccinated and this reduces their risk of catching the virus.
Secondly, you see posts such as “It won’t affect me. I’m a healthy runner!”
- Well, you are probably right. Healthy and young people often have no or only mild symptoms. Nonetheless, they are still spreading the disease. Older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others. If you have no care for these people, you may have no care in the world.
Thirdly, “…which ever way the wind blows, there is nothing the government or any other official institution could or should do about it. Let the disease unfold and pray for the best.”
- Well, in the end, a lot of us will catch the disease. As mentioned, for the most of us, it will not be more than a regular flu. An inconvenience at most. However, there is a huge difference between the consequences connected to being passive vs. active. It has to do with how successfully you can upscale the medical capacity in order to face the rising number of people in need of medical care. However, it also has to do with how an epidemic unfolds. It has to do with mathematics, statistics and logistics. If you just let the virus unfold without hampering its spread, you will face a spread of the disease so massive and in such a short time, that the health care system will not have the capacity to handle it effectively. Hence, the death tolls and the general impact on society will be much larger, than if you in the earlier stages are successful in prohibiting to many people being infected by the virus at once. There are only a limited number of hospital beds, respiratory machines and qualified medical staff available (some of the staff will also get infected along the way), so you have to make sure, that the number of infected people needing critical medical assistance is within the capacity of the medical system. You may read more on this and see a very informative illustration in the following article in The New York Times:https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/11/science/coronavirus-curve-mitigation-infection.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article
If you do not succeed in flattening the Corona virus curve, you will face major shortcomings in your medical system.
To complicate matters further viruses arrive in waves. Come spring and summer, the number of infections will likely decline due to a number of reasons. One obvious being that we tend get out a lot more, instead of crowding together inside. Alas, when autumn approaches, we will face a second wave. If we, however unlikely, succeed in shutting down the spread of the Corona virus completely, we may only be postponing the problem for some months. It is a matter of balance and timing.
In the end, inactivity will result in a lot more casualties and a lot more general damage to the society. Succeeding needs the cooperation of every ordinary citizen. And it needs an active government listening to the relevant knowledgeable capacities and acting accordingly.
Best of luck!