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COVID-19 – it is all about “flattening the curve”


4 min


COVID-19 AmblyoPlay
COVID-19 AmblyoPlay

Not a single day, not even an hour, passes by these days without mentioning arguably the hottest topic in the century so far – the pandemics of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Literally all sports venues have been canceled in the last week or two, the majority of flights have been grounded and many countries have tight sealed their borders. But why, how can an organism 1000-times smaller than the thickness of our hair, an organism that is arguably not even a living thing, impact us so much in the year 2020?

A virus behind COVID-19 disease is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)

Viruses are amongst the smallest living things in the world. They are literally nothing more than a short DNA or RNA strand enveloped by the shield made of proteins. As any living creature out there, the main purpose of viruses is to multiply, in order to be, to exist. Whereas most bacteria can reproduce on their own, given the required nutrients are available, viruses always require a host. In this instance, the host is we [Homo sapiens], more precisely our respiratory epithelial cells. The virus enters our cells and starts using our cells’ proteins in order to make billions and trillions of copies of itself. These copies are then further spread around the population by sneezing, coughing and nasal discharge, allowing the virus to spread and preventing it from drying out.

Why COVID-19 is particularly dangerous?

Well, there are a few things to note here. First and foremost, the problem lies in the word novel. As such, this virus is new to humans and literally nobody is immune to it. Every one of 7 billion people is naïve which means that every single one of us can get and many will get infected in the coming months, perhaps even years. It will only be when a certain percentage of the population has already recovered – has achieved immunity – that the required herd immunity will be attained to slow the spread of the virus. That said, there is a way to accelerate the immunity amongst the population. Researchers around the globe are working around the clock to find an effective vaccine as soon as possible – hopefully already this year.

Secondly, the virus has a rather high reproductive number compared to normal seasonal flu for instance. The latest studies indicate that it is around 4, compared to seasonal flu’s 1.5. This means that every infected person with COVID-19 will on average infect 4 other people, whereas one with seasonal flu will only infect on average one more person and a half.

Thirdly, this is a deadly virus. The current death rate ranges between 3 and 5% which is many many times higher than that of the seasonal flu. What is worse still, is the fact that one in 15 patients will require intensive care unit (ICU) treatment, which can overwhelm health systems of even the richest of countries. As with most respiratory infections, it is the elderly and those with chronic illnesses that are at most risk for complications and death. Nonetheless, also young and immunocompetent can be seriously sick, which is why they too should take COVID-19 seriously, if not for themselves at least for the protection of those who are genuinely at risk.

Last by not least, currently, the treatment remains mostly supportive and no specific drugs have been identified yet. There are some reports of success with certain antimalarial and anti-inflammatory drugs, but if I were you, I would not bet on them just yet.

Stay home, stay safe

As probably everyone is aware by now, the current situation of COVID-19 pandemics has unfortunately gone too far to be stopped abruptly, let alone nipped in the bud. Inevitably, a large number of people will get infected sooner or later. It is up to us, however, that this happens later rather than sooner so that the healthcare capacities will not be exceeded at any given time – only so many lives can be saved. All we can, and must, do now is to stay at home, limit our social interactions and obey the orders of the local, national and federal authorities. How important exactly is to refrain from any kind of social activities and what exactly “flattening the curve” means can be seen in an interesting animation created by the Washington Post.

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