Though the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise, there are signs that we are slowly flattening the curve. The number of reported deaths and cases from the country has edged lower for the third straight day which may indicate a flattening of the curve. This shows that some of the steps taken may slowly but surely be having a positive effect on this fight against Coronavirus.
The world faces pandemics so infrequently that it is difficult to fully comprehend their effect. History, however, has taught us that illnesses like this don’t simply disappear. They continue to circle the Earth in wave after wave until humans can collectively develop some antigens to the virus and slow the rate of transmission. Just as the second major wave of the flu pandemic starting in 1918 was more deadly than the first, we can anticipate that subsequent waves of the Coronavirus may be even more deadly than this first wave.
Fortunately, just knowing and accepting this fact can allow you to prepare better for subsequent waves of this virus. If history holds true, this current pandemic will loom like a shadow over the Earth for the next two years.
The ultimate hope in the fight against Coronavirus is to completely stop the virus and make it disappear forever. But in reality, that will not happen. Dr. Bruce Aylward, one of the top officials fighting the virus and a senior advisor to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General, said in his interview with Time Magazine that numerous people believe Coronavirus is unlikely to disappear completely.
One of the main reasons for this is that the virus is easily transmissible, which makes stopping it almost impossible. What’s likely to happen, according to Dr. Aylward, is the virus will go into a period of cyclical waves or become a low-level endemic disease. People need to, over time, build antigens to the illness. This will then break the direct line of transmission in some cases and slow the spread of the illness over time. The deadliest pandemic in history, the Spanish Flu, took several waves before it ended.
The Spanish Flu began in 1918 and ended as a pandemic around late 1919. It infected about 500 million people worldwide and killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people. These figures are high, especially if you consider the fact that the rate of traveling during that time wasn’t as fast as today. Just like with Coronavirus right now, the world struggled in dealing and containing the Spanish Flu.
The first case of the virus was reported on March 11, 1918, at Camp Funston in Fort Riley, Kansas. The first wave of the Spanish Flu in the U.S. started at military camps and it was believed that infected soldiers were the ones who spread it at the other camps across the country. Since this also happened during World War 1, it was also believed the soldiers were the ones who spread it overseas.
But the spread of the virus was still sporadic. The second wave of the disease began in September 1918 at the US Army training camp, Camp Devens. The second wave was considered the deadliest. At that time, the war was ending and thousands of soldiers were returning home and spreading the disease to the general public. The third wave of the disease occurred during the winter and spring of 1919. The pandemic finally ended during the summer of 1919 when those who were infected either died or developed immunity. This created transmission gaps between people and slowed the spread of the virus.
Though the pandemic ended, the virus continued to spread. Because of the transmission gaps, herd immunity, better treatment options, and public awareness its spread was not as prolific. And while a flu vaccine does provide some protection against strains of Influenza, like the Spanish Flu, they do not provide 100% immunity. A 2012 study showed that the Influenza flu vaccine was deemed effective 67% at that time.
This is what we will inevitably experience with the Coronavirus. Similar to what government and health officials did before, containment and limiting its spread are the key methods implemented while a vaccine is being developed and/or people start to develop immunity to the disease. While these are proven methods to mitigate the deaths from Coronavirus, the virus itself will likely never disappear or “go away.” We will, hopefully, just develop better methods of combating it.
But developing a vaccine for Coronavirus is not easy and, as mentioned earlier, does not provide 100% immunity from the virus. Vaccines are designed to boost the body’s ability to develop antigens. The “novel” nature of the Coronavirus–its newness–is what makes it spread so fast and what makes it difficult for our bodies to recognize it as an invader that needs to be attacked by our immune system. There are 2 factors that are making it challenging for health professionals and scientists to quickly develop a vaccine–the time it takes and the fact that the virus is mutating.
Developing a vaccine that the general public can use takes time. Health officials and scientists need to make sure that the vaccine is safe and effective for everyone. According to an article from The Guardian, the timetable for rolling out a usable vaccine for the general public is around 12 to 18 months. Though some experts have estimated that a vaccine could be available within 6 months or earlier. This experimental and not thoroughly tested vaccine would only, initially, be available for front line individuals, like healthcare workers.
The general public would have to wait around 12 to 18 months for the actual vaccine. Keep in mind, that even with a vaccine, 100% protection isn’t possible. Viruses mutate. One of the factors that make it difficult to develop a vaccine is the virus itself.
It is not unusual for viruses to evolve or mutate. In fact, the novel Coronavirus that we are experiencing right now is not a virus that just popped out of nowhere. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that contain many different strains. Most of these virus strains cause only mild infections in the human respiratory system. This specific Novel Coronavirus, by some estimations, has mutated into up to 7 distinct genetic strains.
When this particular virus infects us, it attaches to our cells and makes copies of its genetic material through RNA. RNA replication is not as exact as DNA replication, so copying mistakes happen. The sometimes mutated copy may have similarities to its former self, but the human body’s immune system may not comprehend it. Thus, any new mutation or strain results in scientists and researchers having to modify their vaccine to increase its efficacy.
As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread and infect people, scientists and health officials are expecting the virus to continue to mutate. No one can really predict how much a virus will change or mutate, the only thing we can do is continue to sequence it, research it, and leverage science toward the development of a cure.
Another reason why the worst may yet to come in this fight against Coronavirus is that governments aren’t coordinating best practices. A majority of the governments from around the world implemented community lockdowns or quarantines to try and flatten the spread of Coronavirus. They also shut down large gatherings, implemented social distancing, and did mass testing to further lessen the spread of the virus. However, not all governments shared the same strategy. The United Kingdom, for example, wanted to only do gradual restrictions.
They didn’t plan on shutting down large gatherings or implementing quarantines. Their strategy for dealing with the virus was to use herd immunity– hoping enough people fought it off to break the transmission links from person-to-person. It’s a strategy where the goal is to have a community build immunity to the disease. This is done either by a vaccine or by building natural immunity. Since the Coronavirus doesn’t have a vaccine yet, building natural immunity was their hope.
There are 2 major flaws in using this building a natural immunity strategy. First, this means a majority of the community will have to contract the disease, which could overwhelm hospitals and healthcare systems. The second flaw is that scientists and healthcare officials are not sure if you can contract the virus more than once. There are even reported cases of recovered patients testing positive from Coronavirus again, which shows it’s hard to build immunity against the virus.
But the worst part about not coordinating best practices is that there are those who completely ignore the threat of Coronavirus. One example of this is what happened in the U.S., Australia, and certain parts of Europe. These countries had a hard time shutting down social gatherings and implementing social distancing protocols because of democratic ideologies and people’s sense of personal liberties. Many people still went to beaches, tourist spots, and social gatherings. There were also numerous companies and stores that remained open. Without governments working as one or having at least a consistent policy, curbing the virus’ spread is almost impossible.
Social distancing, testing and tracking of infected individuals, and effective strategies to allow individuals who have developed antigens to return to work are the only known ways of defeating the Coronavirus; however, some countries, states, and individuals do not globally implement these known ways. This allows the virus to continue to find a foothold in our communities.
Recently, U.S Governors on the north-east and west-coast announced a joint effort to reopen their state economies. Each state would participate in a working group and discuss when they should relax the stay-at-home orders and reopen businesses. They have committed to using science, data, and the help of experts in coming up with a decision on how they will go about it.
It is only through these types of coordinated efforts between communities and countries that the spread of the virus can be slowed and, possibly, halted, before health centers are overwhelmed.
The Coronavirus is not only infecting and killing people, but it is also exposing a country’s weaknesses. Numerous governments around the world are ill-prepared to deal with this outbreak. This is one of the major reasons why COVID-19 spread rapidly in certain countries.
Many experts believed that the U.S. is the country that is most equipped to deal with a pandemic because of the different resources it can use. However, the Coronavirus outbreak has proven that the country is still not adequately prepared to deal with it.
From a medical standpoint, the country lacked enough hospital beds to deal with the thousands of Americans that will likely require hospitalization during the pandemic. There have not been enough testing kits to conduct mass testing on suspected cases. Though pandemics, to some degree, occur on a semi-centennial basis, governments around the globe have revealed that they are woefully underprepared for these events. As a result, we can expect the Coronavirus to continue to spread. Any government’s plans and actions, however, alone won’t be enough to fight against Coronavirus. It’s important for every individual to do their part as well. When measures like social distancing, avoiding mass gatherings, and staying indoors as much as possible were implemented, many people didn’t follow them. They still went to gatherings, attended social events, conducted parties, and so on.
This contributed greatly to the Coronavirus’s initial rapid spreading. Though this can be frustrating, there is actually a psychological reason for this rebellious action. The director of research and innovation at the Mindfulness Center of Brown University, Judson Brewer, M.D. Ph.D. said that anxiety is one of the main reasons people are acting out against government orders. He stated that defying good practice protocols gives some people a sense of control over the situation, thus lessening their anxiety.
As individuals continue to ignore common sense practices to slow the spread of the virus, it will continue to spread rapidly. Protests and calls to reopen governments may come at the cost of human lives. Whereas a slowed infection rate could lead to gradual herd immunity, better medicines to fight the symptoms, and possibly a vaccine before medical facilities are overwhelmed.
No one can accurately predict when the next wave of the Coronavirus pandemic will hit. The current rate of spread will likely decline and then resurge along with the regular flu season in the fall. If it’s community spread is similar to the Spanish Flu pandemic, it will likely follow that course. The good news is we can still be proactive in preparing ourselves and our families for what might come next.
The government will likely continue to come out with announcements, and orders to try and help keep the virus under control. But it’s important to remember that the government is slow to respond and will likely take time in aiding you or not be there for you at all. This is why preparing yourself and your family is crucial for your survival when the next waves hit. Here are some of the things that you can do to prepare:
The Coronavirus pandemic may be slowing down, considering the number of new cases and deaths are edging lower. However, this doesn’t mean we can start relaxing. This is just the beginning, and though there are signs that the pandemic is slowing down, there are actually reasons to believe the worst is yet to come.
So to summarize the main points of this blog, we need to accept, first, that the Coronavirus isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. As history has shown us, virus pandemics come in waves, and it is logical that this Coronavirus will also come in waves. What we are experiencing right now, as terrible as it is, is just the first wave, and there are likely several more waves to come. Second, we should realize governments from around the world don’t coordinate best practices. One of the key things needed to fight against this pandemic is for everyone to work together. But, so far, most governments have their own way of dealing with the problem, not realizing that there’s really no borders when it comes to this virus. Also, individuals within your community who don’t maintain vigilance allow the virus to spread further.
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