What is COVID-19?
Covid-19 is the disease caused by SARS-COV-2 virus. This virus has shown itself to be very contagious with short incubation period in humans. The pandemic however will end as you will be able to appreciate when you get some idea about the virus and some of its prominent properties. You will however continue to get sporadic outbreaks with possibly seasonal patterns.
You can not have reliable vaccine as in small pox and polio. The COVID is caused by an RNA virus and likes to mutate quiet comfortably.
The treatment in terms of cure is elusive.
The worst of its aggression will tone down after taking the toll of hundreds of thousands of elderly and twisting the world economy like never before. This may take around six months. Humans would then learn to live with this virus like a nasty flu bug which will hit them every season. Those with comorbidities will continue to pay heavier price .
What is SARS-COV-2 virus?
Let us now have a very brief glimpse of this virus. It belongs to the family of virus known as Corona virus. Perhaps it was happily living in some exotic creatures and ended up unwittingly in a human host as humans are pretty much like cockroaches when it comes to food habits. It did not mean to be so aggressive and was happily living in the previous natural host. In the humans it found it easy to multiply and spread largely through contact. It has shown itself to be highly contagious.
The other frightful but very real possibility is that humans were playing with these known virus which includes gene splicing and addition. The virus could have escaped the facility through any of these humans getting accidently infected. (added this paragraph after reading a fair amount). This likelyhood is a perfect setting for some conspiracy theory and a blockbuster!
The preventive measure of social distance, masks and hand wash is related to this aspect.
The effect of this virus.
I will not go into various manifestations of the disease itself but look at its basic behaviour. The virus has entered the new host in humans.
Unfortunately this new host (human) found the virus more uncomfortable leading to significant morbidity and mortality. Some mutation perhaps took place and more would be in the pipeline.
This mutation can make it more aggressive or less aggressive. The second prospect is a preferable behaviour from the viewpoint of the parasite. There is no point being so vicious that you kill your host when you can not survive outside your prey. This is evolutionary and follows the rules of survival.
Vast majority of those infected will survive the infection and build some degree of immunity. Those who do not survive are largely elderly or those with some preexisting comorbidities. Perhaps classic survival of the fittest in its raw form.
The suggestion of regular exercise, healthy eating and lifestyle changes to improve your basic health and hence the immunity are therefore stressed.
The impact on policy makers and think tanks.
The think tanks of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump considered that as a preferred option. They were hoping for some mortality over a long period and were prepared for this. The economic argument made sense. However the thinkers got one tiny aspect wrong. The virus turned out to be rather too aggressive with short incubation period taking serious toll on the senior citizens.
Italy and Spain showed how crazy it could get, overwhelming the health service. UK and USA had to lock down. This is a bit late but better late than never.
The idea was that a gradual spread would take place, which allows the health service to cope with best of its facilities. This would go on for years and largely have serious effect on the elderly. In economic terms this is more acceptable.
The herd immunity would develop and we will benefit with one more variety of flu bug to choose! The Covid virus will not end but humans will learn to live with it by sacrificing those with reduced ability to fight while the majority of the rest develop some immunity. Every season we should expect a few thousands to depart their bodies for years to come due to their losing battle with SARS-CoV-2 virus.
What is in store?
Drugs and vaccines are long way off in terms of cure or prophylaxis. There are drugs that do help in recovery of clogged lungs but they do NOT kill the virus. It is the body’s immune system that does the actual task of fighting the invader. Drugs are likely to help, only up to an extent, once available widely. Rapid mutations makes vaccines hard to be of great efficiency and hence to be of great use.
It remains to be seen if hot weather, humidity and sunshine helps to limit its spread. Poorer nations and those with fragile economies would otherwise pay a huge price.
The understanding of the world as we know, was made up of relentless pursuit of wealth regardless of the means. This will be questioned for a while. Expect things to go back as usual in a few years, followed by a plus version of COVID in due course!
It is not the end of the world though humans overestimate their ability and importance in the grand scheme of universe! Humans are totally expendable when nature decides it had enough.
Points to ponder
Live with due respect with the nature and the odds are humans will lead a happier and healthier life and perhaps longer as well. This statement may have a spiritual or a philosophical leaning but that can easily be backed by some boring studies:)
We have silently watched nature being ravaged indiscriminately by humans. It is easy to be a bit cynical about humans who like to think they know best! Sadly the silent majority has to pay the price. The minority who make the noises are of little impact. Perhaps that is natural as well!
Coronavirus will never, ever be over, just like Influenza will never, ever be over. Since that fateful day when somebody in Wuhan decided to snack on a bat, or a snake, or a wolf or whatever it was, the course of history was changed forever.
The Coronavirus as we know it has found a good host. And when a virus finds a good host, it is part of the host species’ existence forever.
It appears that this Coronavirus is very adept at mutation, which is how it got to humans in the first place. So no matter what vaccination is brought out, Coronavirus will circumvent it with mutation, just like the ‘flu does.
However, and this is the important point, every day it becomes more and more likely that the danger of the virus is massively overestimated. The reported death rates of 3% are clearly massively overestimated. It’s now thought that there are tens of thousands of unreported cases of Coronvirus around the world. Remember, 100% of deaths caused by the virus are reported, but the amount of people who are carrying the virus is unknown, and the reports are based on the worst possible scenario.
When we look at the deaths, we have to look at where the deaths have occurred. Wuhan was hit pretty hard, but 70% of the male population are heavy smokers, and they live in the some of the worst air pollution in the world. It won’t take much to put these people into respiratory distress. Then there’s Italy. The people that have succumbed have been elderly, since the elderly will not have access to social media like the young have, and villages of old biddies will get together for Sunday mass and a cup of coffee.
Then there’s counties like the UK and Australia where the deaths are occurring in nursing homes. The remaining life expectancy in nursing homes is months, and patients are way more likely to die of aspirational pneumonia from inadequate oral hygiene. But the fact is, only a handful of people have been tested. In America it is around 500, in Australia it is no more than 100, and a diagnosis cannot be made without a test. So just think of all the undiagnosed cases that bring the death rate down.
The fact is that this is just my opinion, and nobody knows the truth just yet. It is the fear of the unknown that is worse for many people.
Edit: It appears that some people haven’t read the last paragraph. It is my opinion. You’re welcome to yours, even if it differs from mine. But if you start getting all angry and insulting and are unable to keep your emotions in check, you’ll just get your comment deleted and get blocked. Be nice people, it’s free.
Edit 2: The first line isn’t racist. It’s a scientific fact. If your mind works that way, that’s a shame for you, but don’t assume that everybody else’s does.
Let us be very realistic. The COVID virus will NOT end in any near future. I have drawn some reasonable conclusions based on some understanding of viruses and epidemics. I will not be too technical as it hardly adds much to the appreciation of huge capability of nature.
Several months ago a highly infectious, sometimes deadly respiratory virus, COVID-19 infected humans. It then proliferated faster than public health measures could contain it. Now, the WHO has declared the pandemic. Pandemic means it is spreading worldwide.
Due to the social-psychological issue of exhaustion and frustration, people want to go back to their regular life. Everyone has the same question – “When will this pandemic end ?”
Some historians believe that pandemic has two types of endings –
- Social ending – When the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes. In this ending, end occurs not because the disease has been vanquished, but because people grow tired of the panic mode and learn to live with a disease.
- Medical ending – When incidence and death rates plummet.
The WHO will declare the pandemic over, once the infection is mostly contained and rates of transmission drop significantly throughout the world. But exactly when that happens depends on what global governments choose to do next. There are three ways to deal with the pandemic.
- Race through it – It is widely considered best and it may not be the one you think.
- Delay and Vaccinate.
- Coordinate and Crush.
In the first option, there are no quarantine and social distancing norms. The Government will allow people to be exposed as quickly as possible. This will lead to peak capacity in the hospitals almost immediately. There will be millions of deaths, either from the virus or the collapse of the health care system. The majority of the population will be infected in this case. Some perished and some survived by building up their immune response. Around this point, the herd community kicks in, where the virus can no longer find new hosts. So the pandemic frizzles out in a short time after it began. It is a quick fix, but a global catastrophe, and also it may not work at all if people can be reinfected.
In the second option, the Government imposes full lockdown in the containment zones and emphasizes strict social distancing norms. This will slow down the spread and give research facilities time to develop a vaccine. This time can be used for widespread testing to identify carriers, quarantining the infected and people they’ve interacted with. These measures can slow down the death toll. Some cities get the outbreak under the control and go back to usual regular life, only to have a resurgence and return to physical distancing when a new case passes through. Within the next few years, one or possibly several vaccines become widely, and hopefully freely available. Once 40–90% of the population has received it, then herd immunity kicks in and the pandemic fizzles out. Ultimately, vaccination assisted by as much global cooperation is the winner. This is the slow, steady, and proven option.
In the last option, the idea is to simultaneously starve the virus, everywhere through a combination of quarantine social distancing, and restricting travel. The critical factor is to synchronize responses. In a pandemic, when one country is peaking, another may be getting its first case. Instead of separate governments dealing with what’s happening in their territory, here everyone must treat the world as a giant interconnected system. With full coordination, this method can end pandemic within a few months, with low loss of life. If the virus is not completely eradicated(which is highly unlikely), then the situation can again escalate to the pandemic level once again. So, this method is only reliable with true and nearly impossible global cooperation.
Due to economic catastrophe wreaked by lockdown, some states have lifted restrictions. The end-game of COVID-19 will involve a mix of efforts that stopped historic outbreaks: social-control measures, medication, and vaccine.
According to historians, pandemics typically have two types of endings: the medical, which occurs when the incidence and death rates plummet, and the social, when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes.
“When people ask, ‘When will this end?,’ they are asking about the social ending,” said Dr. Jeremy Greene, a historian of medicine at Johns Hopkins.
In other words, an end can occur not because a disease has been vanquished but because people grow tired of panic mode and learn to live with a disease. Allan Brandt, a Harvard historian, said something similar was happening with COVID-19: “As we have seen in the debate about opening the economy, many questions about the so-called end are determined not by medical and public health data but by sociopolitical processes.”
Endings “are very, very messy,” said Dora Vargha, a historian at the University of Exeter. “Looking back, we have a weak narrative. For whom does the epidemic end, and who gets to say?”
In the Path of Fear
An epidemic of fear can occur even without an epidemic of illness. Dr. Susan Murray, of the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, saw that firsthand in 2014 when she was a fellow at a rural hospital in Ireland.
In the preceding months, more than 11,000 people in West Africa had died from Ebola, a terrifying viral disease that was highly infectious and often fatal. The epidemic seemed to be waning, and no cases had occurred in Ireland, but the public fear was palpable.
“On the street and on the wards, people are anxious,” Murray recalled recently in an article in The New England Journal of Medicine. “Having the wrong color skin is enough to earn you the side-eye from your fellow passengers on the bus or train. Cough once, and you will find them shuffling away from you.”
The Dublin hospital workers were warned to prepare for the worst. They were terrified and worried that they lacked protective equipment. When a young man arrived in the emergency room from a country with Ebola patients, no one wanted to go near him; nurses hid, and doctors threatened to leave the hospital.
Murray alone dared treat him, she wrote, but his cancer was so advanced that all she could offer was comfort care. A few days later, tests confirmed that the man did not have Ebola; he died an hour later. Three days afterward, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola epidemic over.
Murray wrote, “If we are not prepared to fight fear and ignorance as actively and as thoughtfully as we fight any other virus, it is possible that fear can do terrible harm to vulnerable people, even in places that never see a single case of infection during an outbreak. And a fear epidemic can have far worse consequences when complicated by issues of race, privilege and language.”
Black Death and Dark Memories
Bubonic plague has struck several times in the past 2,000 years, killing millions of people and altering the course of history. Each epidemic amplified the fear that came with the next outbreak.
The disease is caused by a strain of bacteria, Yersinia pestis, that lives on fleas that live on rats. But bubonic plague, which became known as the Black Death, also can be passed from infected person to infected person through respiratory droplets, so it cannot be eradicated simply by killing rats.
Historians describe three great waves of plague, said Mary Fissell, a historian at Johns Hopkins: the Plague of Justinian, in the sixth century; the medieval epidemic, in the 14th century; and a pandemic that struck in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The medieval pandemic began in 1331 in China. The illness, along with a civil war that was raging at the time, killed half the population of China. From there, the plague moved along trade routes to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. In the years between 1347 and 1351, it killed at least one-third of the European population. Half the population of Siena, Italy, died.
“It is impossible for the human tongue to recount the awful truth,” wrote 14th-century chronicler Agnolo di Tura. “Indeed, one who did not see such horribleness can be called blessed.” The infected, he wrote, “swell beneath the armpits and in their groins and fall over while talking.” The dead were buried in pits, in piles.
In Florence, Italy, wrote Giovanni Boccaccio, “No more respect was accorded to dead people than would nowadays be accorded to dead goats.” Some hid in their homes. Others refused to accept the threat. Their way of coping, Boccaccio wrote, was to “drink heavily, enjoy life to the full, go round singing and merrymaking, and gratify all of one’s cravings when the opportunity emerged, and shrug the whole thing off as one enormous joke.”
That pandemic ended, but the plague recurred. One of the worst outbreaks began in China in 1855 and spread worldwide, killing more than 12 million in India alone. Health authorities in Mumbai, India, burned whole neighborhoods trying to rid them of the plague. “Nobody knew if it made a difference,” Yale historian Frank Snowden said.
It is not clear what made the bubonic plague die down. Some scholars have argued that cold weather killed the disease-carrying fleas, but that would not have interrupted the spread by the respiratory route, Snowden noted.
Or perhaps it was a change in the rats. By the 19th century, the plague was being carried not by black rats but by brown rats, which are stronger, more vicious and more likely to live apart from humans.
“You certainly wouldn’t want one for a pet,” Snowden said.
Another hypothesis is that the bacterium evolved to be less deadly. Or maybe actions by humans, such as the burning of villages, helped quell the epidemic.
The plague never really went away. In the United States, infections are endemic among prairie dogs in the Southwest and can be transmitted to people. Snowden said that one of his friends became infected after a stay at a hotel in New Mexico. The previous occupant of his room had a dog, which had fleas that carried the microbe.
Such cases are rare and can now be successfully treated with antibiotics, but any report of a case of the plague stirs up fear.
One Disease That Actually Ended
Among the diseases to have achieved a medical end is smallpox. But it is exceptional for several reasons: There is an effective vaccine, which gives lifelong protection; the virus, Variola minor, has no animal host, so eliminating the disease in humans meant total elimination; and its symptoms are so unusual that infection is obvious, allowing for effective quarantines and contact tracing.
But while it still raged, smallpox was horrific. Epidemic after epidemic swept the world for at least 3,000 years. Individuals infected with the virus developed a fever, then a rash that turned into pus-filled spots, which became encrusted and fell off, leaving scars. The disease killed 3 out of 10 of its victims, often after immense suffering.
In 1633, an epidemic among Native Americans “disrupted all the native communities in the northeast and certainly facilitated English settlement in Massachusetts,” said Harvard historian David Jones. William Bradford, leader of the Plymouth colony, wrote an account of the disease in Native Americans, saying the broken pustules would effectively glue a patient’s skin to the mat he lay on, only to be torn off. Bradford wrote, “When they turn them, a whole side will flay off at once as it were, and they will be all of a gore blood, most fearful to behold.”
The last person to contract smallpox naturally was Ali Maow Maalin, a hospital cook in Somalia, in 1977. He recovered, only to die of malaria in 2013.
The 1918 flu is held up today as the example of the ravages of a pandemic and the value of quarantines and social distancing. Before it ended, the flu killed 50 million to 100 million people worldwide. It preyed on young to middle-aged adults — orphaning children, depriving families of breadwinners, killing troops in the midst of World War I.
In the autumn of 1918, William Vaughan, a prominent doctor, was dispatched to Camp Devens near Boston to report on a flu that was raging there. He saw “hundreds of stalwart young men in the uniform of their country, coming into the wards of the hospital in groups of 10 or more,” he wrote. “They are placed on the cots until every bed is full, yet others crowd in. Their faces soon wear a bluish cast; a distressing cough brings up bloodstained sputum. In the morning the dead bodies are stacked up in the morgue like cord wood.”
The virus, he wrote, “demonstrated the inferiority of human inventions in the destruction of human life.”
After sweeping through the world, that flu faded away, evolving into a variant of the more benign flu that comes around every year.
“Maybe it was like a fire that, having burned the available and easily accessible wood, burns down,” Snowden said.
It ended socially, too. World War I was over; people were ready for a fresh start, a new era, and eager to put the nightmare of disease and war behind them. Until recently, the 1918 flu was largely forgotten.
Other flu pandemics followed — none so bad, but all nonetheless sobering. In the Hong Kong flu of 1968, 1 million people died worldwide, including 100,000 in the United States, mostly people older than 65. That virus still circulates as a seasonal flu, and its initial path of destruction — and the fear that went with it — is rarely recalled.
How Will COVID-19 End?
Will that happen with COVID-19?
One possibility, historians say, is that the coronavirus pandemic could end socially before it ends medically. People may grow so tired of the restrictions that they declare the pandemic over, even as the virus continues to smolder in the population and before a vaccine or effective treatment is found.
“I think there is this sort of social psychological issue of exhaustion and frustration,” Yale historian Naomi Rogers said. “We may be in a moment when people are just saying, ‘That’s enough. I deserve to be able to return to my regular life.’”
It is happening already; in some states, governors have lifted restrictions, allowing hair salons, nail salons and gyms to reopen, in defiance of warnings by public health officials that such steps are premature. As the economic catastrophe wreaked by the lockdowns grows, more and more people may be ready to say “enough.”
“There is this sort of conflict now,” Rogers said. Public health officials have a medical end in sight, but some members of the public see a social end.
“Who gets to claim the end?” Rogers said. “If you push back against the notion of its ending, what are you pushing back against? What are you claiming when you say, ‘No, it is not ending.’”
The challenge, Brandt said, is that there will be no sudden victory