FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WOWO): Some of the misinformation about COVID-19 has to do with either minimizing the disease, or exaggerating it. Officials stress awareness and a heightened state of concern are appropriate, but panic isn’t helpful at all. Our first article has more information about the virus itself.
Bear in mind that as you look at what is happening in Italy and China, that their healthcare systems and emergency preparedness infrastructure is nowhere near what we have in the United States. Additionally, our healthcare systems are among the most advanced in the world, giving the United States a more effective response to this virus.
The Anatomy of a Pandemic.
Pandemic is a scary term. However, at this point, COVID-19 has not been declared a pandemic because one of the criteria of a pandemic is the virus ability to be spread easily from person to person in a sustained manner. This has not been seen yet with COVID-19.
While you may hear people say that the coronavirus is no different from the virus that causes the common cold or flu, that’s only partially true. Certainly, COVID-19 is no more or less a viral disease than a cold or the flu, but what is being seen is that the SARS CoV virus has a higher level of contagiousness.
Over the past 20 years, we have seen similar viral borne diseases, one of which became an actual pandemic.
SARS, which is a related disease to COVID-19 originated in China in 2002, and was a novel coronavirus, just like Sars CoV, that causes Covid-19. During the period of infection, just over eight thousand cases were reported which resulted in 774 deaths. That virus killed about 1 in 10 people infected. People over 65 were most at risk with over half of those dying being in this group. The estimated death rate was 50% in adults over 60.
From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, the H1N1 Pandemic saw 60.8 million cases in the United States, with 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths. Globally, the CDC estimates that 151,700-575,400 people died. The estimated death rate was .02 percent, however, 80 percent of the deaths were estimated to have occurred in people younger than 65 years of age.
Finally MERS was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Just like COVID-19 and SARS, MERS was caused by a novel coronavirus. To date, MERS has nearly 2,500 laboratory confirmed cases with a death rate of about 34%.
What does this mean?
Pandemics behave as unpredictably as the viruses that cause them. Over the past century, great variations were seen in mortality, severity of illness and patterns of spread.
In preparing for a possible pandemic, one thing we need to be aware of is a rapid surge in the number of cases, and an exponential increase over a brief period of time, often weeks.
Pandemics are not a limited medical phenomenon. They affect society on multiple levels and can cause disruptions.
- Though it is no more or no less a viral disease than the seasonal flu or common cold, the contagiousness level is apparently much higher. And while it is true that the flu results in more deaths every day than COVID-19 has, what is undetermined is the actual death rate of COVID-19.
- There have been three other global outbreaks of viral disease, two of which were caused by a novel coronavirus, just like COVID-19. This is encouraging, because it may allow for a more rapid development of a potential vaccine and treatments for symptoms may parallel what has already been seen.
- We can expect to see a surge in the number of reported and confirmed cases in the coming days and weeks. This is not necessarily due to the virus spreading, as it will be the ability to test and detect it. We will also possibly see that number exponentially increase in the coming weeks and may see a pandemic declared, as testing and diagnosis become more widespread.
- If COVID-19 becomes a declared pandemic, we can expect people to continue to become sick for weeks to even months into the future. This may be especially true because SARS CoV (Coronavirus-5) does not appear to have seasonal sensitivity as do the viruses that cause the flu and the common cold.
- We will see the mortality rate drop as the number of infections increases due to healthier people recovering from it after a short duration of sickness.
Where we are now:
SARS CoV is an evolving epidemic with a novel virus that has limited transmission in the United States so far. As laboratory testing becomes more widely used, the numbers will jump. Because we have no vaccine or treatment, the response will be to use non-pharmaceutical interventions until treatment and vaccines become available for immediate use.