My Morning Musings: Public Service Announcement

As I get asked more and more about school closures and quarantines, I thought I’d post what’s on my mind today – from a person who has taught and written books on anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and microbiology for nearly 30 years. People wonder about the difference between the flu and COVID-19. Here goes….While both (flu and COVID-19) are caused by a virus, COVID-19 kills more people proportionally. It has nothing to do with politics; viruses don’t care about governments or borders. COVID-19 is much deadlier than the flu. Throughout the intervening years, science has done what science does, and learned more about viruses. While corona viruses are not new, COVID-19 is a novel virus, so we are learning every day more and more about it. We also cannot overwhelm the healthcare system; doing so would hurt other people with different illnesses that rely on medical care. We don’t have a vaccine for COVID-19 and antivirals are not effectively treating it. People who do recover from COVID-19 also have diminished lung function afterward, and this could be a lifelong effect. Physiologically, COVID-19 behaves differently than the common cold or the flu- COVID-19 takes longer for symptoms to appear, so throughout the asymptomatic phase, if you have the virus, you are potentially infecting more people. Since this is a new strain, humans haven’t developed immunity to it; thus, more people can be affected by it. It’s also twice as contagious as the flu. All viruses need a living host to proliferate. If we contain it, eliminate its host, it goes away. If you don’t know somebody with it, that’s a good sign. That means limiting exposure is working! Regarding borders: People exposed to other people with the virus can also harbor the disease, bringing it back to the population at large. Hoarding toilet paper and disinfectants is not the route to go. Forget about the “every person for himself/herself mentality.” We are in this together. The best thing we can do is shop for necessary items and allow everyone to have access to necessary items – that way, both you AND your neighbor can be protected, which is the surest way of blocking diseases that are spread by human contact. Keep as many people as possible virus, sign, and symptom free. We have to apply what we’ve learned from science because we don’t want to look back and say, “Why didn’t they do X or Y when we knew at the time that would help?” We need a clear, consistent message that outlines what this illness is, why we are concerned, what you can do, why it’s important to do this, what measures to take to help everybody – along with a message as to what happens IF we do this and what happens if we DON’T do this. Panic is not the answer. Sound scientific practices will help us all. Make sense? Feel free to share and share alike!

Signing off for science.