With the COVID-19 outbreak causing all kinds of unrest, experts are doing their best to mitigate mass panic by offering up the facts free from bias or sensationalism.
Dr Rohin Francis just posted a video to his Medlife Crisis channel on YouTube which he hopes will assuage some of the more common fears and concerns surrounding the virus, without ignoring the facts or making light of the situation.
You can make a difference.
“Take the lead at your workplace and school,” he advises. “Be a paragon of the advice that we all know by now; meticulous hand washing, distancing yourself from others, avoiding unnecessary meetings, staying at home when possible, and in particular isolating yourself if you’re sick… It’s much better to overreact in a productive way, than to fail to take this seriously.”
He reasons that it’s not a bad thing to be the person in the room who turns down a hug or vetoes social invitations, as it reminds everybody of the seriousness of what’s going on. This echoes advice given by Dr Xand van Tulleken, who advocated for alternatives to hugs and handshakes on BBC Question Time last week, as an elbow bump or foot tap actually brings hygiene to the forefront of everybody’s mind.
Coronavirus is beatable.
“This virus is not an unstoppable monster, it’s weak,” Francis continues. “It’s an enveloped virus which is highly susceptible to everyday basic cheap soap. The envelope around the envelope is basically a fat droplet, and as we all know, soap breaks up fat. Alcohol gel over 70 percent also dehydrates this layer.”
He clarifies that while coronavirus can be contracted through breathing, it is not technically airborne, but rather transmitted via respiratory droplets in the air which fall to the ground or a surface within seconds, where they can then be cleaned.
The stats are better than you think.
“There is understandably a lot of interest in the case mortality rate, i.e. what percentage of people who are infected go on to die. But it’s more nuanced than just saying a number in isolation. You’ve probably heard it’s around 3 percent at the moment, but there’s no one case mortality rate, it changes, it’s drastically different from region to region and from time to time.”
It comes down to simple math. The case mortality rate is taken by dividing the number of deaths by the total number of cases, and multiplying by 100. And given that there are likely many, many cases which won’t have been officially diagnosed, that denominator goes up, meaning the case mortality rate could actually be smaller than we think.
We’re seeing encouraging results from other countries.
“At the time of recording, there have been about 130,000 cases in the world, with 70,000 recovered, but the actual recovery percentage is probably higher due to the way that ‘recovered’ is defined epidemiologically… We can replicate some of the measures seen in Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and we know that they can make a difference.”
The scientific community is working around the clock.
“The medical press tends to move very slowly,” says Francis. “But I’ve been blown away by the doctors in China, Korea, the countries that were affected early on, despite being swamped and working around the clock treating patients, losing some of their own ranks, they have been publishing like crazy. So have the experts. We’re seeing faster turnaround times than I’ve ever known for scientific publications, and you know what? I’m extremely happy to see proper scientists being listened to by politicians for a change.”
He also praises the cooperation between academics, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and other bodies, with more than 80 therapeutic trials already underway. “A vaccine may be a while off yet, but we’re seeing plenty of options being tested.”
Kids seem to be the least affected.
This isn’t unprecedented; chickenpox also has a far less severe impact on children as it does on adults. There are a few theories as to why so few kids are getting sick from coronavirus, such as the idea that schools are so densely populated with germs it has created a kind of cross-immunity, as so many cold bugs stem from the coronavirus family.
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