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Why is COVID-19 such a big deal? Two reasons

March 11th, 2020
Graphic of COVID-19

This is not about whether you will get sick and die from COVID-19. Most people will not. This is about two things – one that is about you and the other that is about helping those less fortunate than you in the society that we all share and benefit from.

 

  1. We need to protect the medical system so that if you get sick from something else your doctors can treat you: they have a well-equipped functioning medical system and they are not quarantined or too busy fighting pneumonia. Many persons will die in this epidemic from treatable problems that cannot get treated if the system is overwhelmed.
  2. Viruses spread in what is called ‘chains of transmission’. We don’t want the chain to reach the most vulnerable persons in society. It is the job of everyone in society to do their part in this. For most people that means NOT letting yourself be in one of those chains – especially if that chain ends in your parents or grandparents or senior friends. Your job with this virus is to help break those chains of transmission Everyone has a role to play.

 

COVID-19 is VERY contagious and the hospitals will be hard-pressed to care for every case when the main wave of patients hit. In China where they had to build extra hospitals to cope with the surge, and in Italy the medical system is being swamped by pneumonia cases.

 

COVID-19 can be like a tsunami or can be lots of smaller waves. Experts – doctors, epidemiologists, public servants, are all trying to ‘flatten the curve’ to ensure there is adequate medical care for those who get sick. We want the ‘waves’ to be small and manageable not like a tsunami.  This means the rate of transmission to others must be slowed. Big gatherings spread it quickly. Schools spread viruses.

 

Graph of benefits of slowing the rate of spread

 From the Guardian

Some sufferers of COVID-19 have no symptoms. Children often have no symptoms but can spread it. Most adults will only experience a mild illness so having no symptoms is no guarantee of not being infectious. COVID-19 is coughed by sufferers onto passers-by or can land on surfaces and lurk in wait – like a booby trap.

 

Sick persons can excrete COVID-19 from before they are sick until many days after.

COVID-19 can potentially survive on surfaces for hours or even days – may be up to 9 days.

Persons over 80 or with medical problems are at much higher risk of dying from COVID-19, and if hospitals are swamped and best practice care is not available, the risk of death or permanent lung damage is going to be higher.

As time goes on better treatments will be found, and a vaccine may be available so ideally if going to get it, need to get it later.

Graph of COVID-19 death rate by age

From BBC

There is much we still don’t know about COVID-19 so information can change but be prepared but not panicky, Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

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