Wuhan Virus

Winston July 3, 2020

Thank you for sharing your friend’s newspaper opinion piece on the current epidemic with me.  Congratulations to her on her writing success.

She is very emotional in her response, which is not unexpected for a non-medical person.  Unfortunately she mixes politics with the natural history of infectious disease.

Her thinking is complicated by not having the training to have a full grasp of the numbers being reported about the epidemic.  The numbers of epidemiology are complicated, confusing and often incomplete or not timely.  As a professional, I have been having a difficulty sorting through what information is being reported.  All of which is complicated by the frequent news headlines and incomplete data being presented on television, radio, newspapers and Internet.  

Most people are emotional about the subject and that certainly includes those in the news business, government officials and surprisingly, some medical professionals.  Many are not objective. Many have secondary interest. All know what is wrong, but they are short on fixes.

This infection will go on just like the flu does.  The infection, despite all measures will spread though the population.  It will not be stopped by social distancing, mask, hand sanitizers, or other non-treatment or non-immunization techniques.  Those things may help you to avoid being one of the infected ones, but people will be people and the virus will spread.  It will be stopped when enough people have been infected so that it becomes difficult for it to be spread, since most have developed immunity from prior infection (herd immunity).  Or, it will be stopped when a good treatment is identified or an immunization developed.  

Us old timers are at higher risk, as are those who have underlying conditions, most likely including untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea.  So Winston, use your CPAP!!! Your youth is a good, but not perfect, fortress and defense against this bug.  It is best not to get it.  Do what you can to protect yourself. 

As the number of test performed increases, the number of cases of infection will increase.  What you should watch is the number of patients with the virus hospitalized, the number of cases per capita, and the percent of tested patients who are positive for the virus.  I would not follow the percentage of hospital beds used or beds available since hospital administrators, public health administrators, press and politicians can manipulate the percentages for secondary gain.

I differ in my opinion from your friend.  This country’s response to the virus has been the best in the world with a few notable exceptions mostly in New York.  A few of the major reasons would include:

More testing            

Less dying

More secondary support – supplies, test, ventilators, vaccine work, emergency hospital beds, etc

More openness in data reporting

As a physician, there is no country in the world that I would rather be in during this, or for that matter, any pandemic.  Mistakes have been made and more will be made, but those mistakes do not change my opinion of the country’s response.

The Wuhan virus is a mean respiratory bug that has the potential for serious illness and death.  It is meaner than the flu, but only a little more so.  Most people infected with the virus do not need hospitalization and many, if not the majority, do not even know that they were infected.

So Master Winston, keep a safe distance, wear you mask around others, and wash those hand.  As they might say in the military, keep you head down and move fast.   And of course, use your CPAP.  This will pass.