Is the government overreacting? Are people around you overreacting? Are you overreacting?
If you are not worried about being infected with THE virus, why should anyone else be concerned? If people are infected by the flu virus every year, why be concerned about people being infected by the corona virus? And why should you be told to self-quarantine, when you feel so good and healthy?
Here are 6 insights into our current pandemic that will help you understand what is going on and why the government is issuing such drastic measures.
1. The Problem
The problem facing the world today is suffering and death caused by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by a corona virus that has been named SARS-CoV-2. (SARS is the abbreviation for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.)
A similar outbreak appeared in China in 2002. That outbreak was caused by a different strain of corona virus. Another outbreak by another corona virus occurred in 2012, originating in Saudi Arabia. It was called MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
2. The Threat
The current threat of suffering and death preoccupying the world at the moment is caused by the virus named SARS-CoV-2. This name distinguishes it from the other corona viruses. It is virulent and contagious. This means it is easily transmitted, and it will cause disease. It is being treated as an airborne disease, which means it can be transmitted just by talking and breathing. This is what makes it so contagious. However, new studies are showing that this may not be the most common mode of transmission.
Two secondary social threats to our well-being are panic and complacency. Both are extreme and irrational responses to the pandemic challenging the world right now.
There is also the threat of evil. Whenever there is opportunity, evil strikes. It resides in the heart of humanity. When there is panic and fear, people do irrational things. Fear and ignorance can turn a civil society into an uncivil society very quickly.
3. The Complications
Complications result from bad decisions. The proud and ignorant prematurely pontificate their “amazing” insights and predictions. This means that more ignorant and poor choices will be made, resulting in more people suffering and dying. Fear and panic may overprotect, but complacency can lead to increased suffering and death.
Can you imagine if the healthcare systems looked like the stores do today, with long wait lines? If the virus spreads too fast, this is what the hospitals will look like. This is the reason that such drastic measures are being taken to slow the rate of transmission.
We know how fast the virus spreads when precautions are not taken in time. This is not theory. China, Italy, and France are examples of what not to do. The challenge with precautions is that people do not believe there is a crisis until they see the crisis. But if they wait to see evidence of crisis, it is too late.
4. The Vulnerability
The first vulnerability is an overwhelmed healthcare system. Epidemiologists have analyzed the spread of the virus and are convinced that delaying an appropriate response to the virus will lead to more suffering and death. Why? An overwhelmed healthcare system cannot attend to the needs of all the sick. Our healthcare system is designed to respond to the normal expectations of medical needs in communities. With a sudden increase of patients, medical supplies will be insufficient; bed spaces will be in short supply; and healthcare personnel will be overwhelmed due to contracting the disease themselves, fatigue, and too many patients to care for.
The second vulnerability is the elderly. These are the most vulnerable in the population. Statistics show that people 55 and older are facing a mortality rate of 3% to 14.5%. Many of these deaths may have been preventable if adequate healthcare had been available.
The third vulnerability is the chronically ill who suffer from lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, and a compromised immune system. The virus will complicate their health conditions, and an overwhelmed healthcare system will not be readily available to help them.
The fourth vulnerability is the lack of herd protection. The human population has not been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus before, so there is no natural protection. Unlike the seasonal influenza virus which has come to an equilibrium in the human population, it can be assumed that 100% of the human population is vulnerable to infection by the CoV-2 virus. This is one reason it spreads so quickly and exponentially.
You might not be vulnerable. But you can be a threat to those who are, if you do not take precautions to avoid spreading the virus.
5. The Transmission
The route of transmitting the virus is through the eyes, the nose, and the mouth. These are the doors into your body. Once the virus comes into contact with these openings, you will be infected.
The severity of infection you will suffer is determined by several variables.
A relationship of these variables used in immunology classes is described as Infection = Virulence x Number of pathogens / Resistance [ I = (V x N) / R ]. The greater the virulence and the greater the number of pathogens you are exposed to, the greater the severity of infection you can expect. The greater your resistance to the infection, the less severe the infection will be.
You can see that those with little resistance who are exposed to large numbers of a virulent pathogen can expect a very severe infection. Those who are healthy and have a greater resistance to pathogens can expect to be affected with less severity.
CoV-2 is being treated like an airborne pathogen that can be transmitted during the incubation period. This means that, prior to showing symptoms, an infected person can transmit viruses to others by breathing and talking, as well as by coughing and sneezing. The more viruses shed in each breath, the greater the number of virus particles others are exposed to. This means that you could be infected and transmit the disease to others before you are even aware that you are infected. This is the reason drastic steps are being taken to isolate people from one another.
Feeling good or only mildly sick does not make you safe. It makes you more dangerous to others if you do not take precautions to avoid spreading the virus.
The incubation period appears to be averaging about 5 days before symptoms appear. But it can incubate for up to 12 days. This is the reason a 14-day isolation period is recommended if you suspect that you have been exposed. After 14 days of an effective and successful community-wide quarantine, it will be evident who is infected and who is not.
6. The Response
Prevent infection with social distancing, hand-washing, disinfectants, antiseptics, and quarantine. Eventually, there will be vaccines available, but these take up to a year to prepare and test.
If possible, avoid going to the emergency room, medical clinic, or hospital for minor ailments or just to be tested. Others shedding the virus will be there, and you will be exposed. Go if there is a true emergency.
If you are wondering whether you should go to the hospital, call before you go. Look up websites provided to pre-screen prospective patients.
Viral diseases, like CoV-2, must run their course. The complications are what need to be treated, such as pneumonia, cough, fever, and headache, as well as the social complications of panic, complacency, and overwhelming the healthcare system. Be informed, and make good choices. Use common sense to avoid being infected and to avoid infecting others. Pray for health and wisdom.
You can read more about appropriate responses to COVID-19 in my article “5 Ways to Respond Appropriately to COVID-19.”
Dr. Briney earned his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Arkansas, specializing in immunology and infectious diseases. Click the button below to contact him with your questions or comments.