The need to keep a social distance may be the second most important global public health measure in the era of Covid-19. Thankfully, this significant behavioural change seems to be effective at the moment. Hospital capacity no longer appears to be going over the cliff on a daily basis as we move timidly to the other side of the flattened curve.
Telecommunicating, zooming, and learning to live online have been a fortunate convenience for many of us during this stay at home period. Now there are cautious considerations to end social distancing, to basically push that proverbial Reset button, which is probably going to be an equally enormous task.
Testing, therapeutics, safety of front-line workers, antibody, a second wave, herd immunity, and vaccine are just some of the other pressing issues facing world communities as Covid 19 persists. Prolonging social distancing or ending it too soon can both have immense added health and economic consequences. These are unprecedented times; will we get this right?
As we continue to experience first-hand and live through possibly the worse global health crisis of our lifetime, we can’t help but to wonder at least a little how the world coped with the 1918–1919 influenza cataclysm. It was the most severe global pandemic of the past century. Although there was no consensus to its origin, it was caused by the H1N1 virus of an avian genetic origin. The world had little countermeasures to combat its destiny at the time. There was no testing for the virus, therapeutics, ventilators, or vaccines, control efforts globally were limited, leaving the world predisposed for the worse possible outcome.
It was estimated that 500 million or one third of the world’s population was infected with over 50 million succumbing to the severity of the infection. These are incomprehensible statistics at an unimaginable time in human history. However, the world somehow managed to move on and miraculously even thrived post 1919. This tragic and extreme historic reminder emphasizes how very far we have come in unparalleled advancements and discoveries in science, technology and medicine. It may also help put our current surreal predicament at some level in much needed perspective.
For now, it appears the more we know about Covid-19 the more we need to know. The elderly and immunocompromised were initially thought to be the only unfortunate and vulnerable group as evident from the numerous cases and untimely deaths in long term care facilities. The younger generations had a premature sense of invincibility until more data and science suggested less discriminate infections. It was believed early on that the virus predominantly attacked the upper respiratory system, but new data again suggested otherwise. As additional medical challenges such as blood clots and the loss of taste and smell are also being associated with Covid-19 inflictions. More recently, community spread in the US appeared to have occurred much earlier than originally recorded, another contradiction. The virus seems to be always one step ahead.
As epidemiological and scientific research continues its critical work in drug and therapeutic treatment worldwide, the highly anticipated Covid-19 vaccine currently underway globally may be our ultimate solution. It may be the only true remedy to stop these tragic statistics, re-establish a rational level of confidence and trust in all our interactions and some kind of functional normalcy again.
However, vaccine takes time to develop, a process that involves many complex steps and legislations. But in essence, the goal of any vaccine is to isolate the virus, prevent or reduce its ability to reproduce, then administer the vaccine with enough of the virus to trigger an immune response but not enough to cause sickness. A simple concept that if rushed, could have dire consequences.
A quick search of the current Covid-19 vaccine progress will reveal billions of dollars being poured into this health care arms race with already a few claiming potential solution in sight. From medicinal cannabis, to infecting the patient with another virus, and from theoretical planning to human clinical trials, vaccine research around the world is exploring many different options entering various stages in their hunt. However, with only 5% of vaccines historically making the final stage of widespread use, this may prove to be the most important and toughest challenge the modern-day healthcare system has ever faced.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 and the fear of Covid-19 continues its destructive path indiscriminately with varied global, national and regional responses. The precise fallout of this novel virus will be significant and immeasurable but our individual loss although also varied will no doubt be substantial as well. This is something we should keep in mind as we somehow grow weary of this new normal, uncertainty with the Reset and of the multitudes of unknowns. However, based on what we already know, acting on our understandable fatigue without proper data and science, we may be doing so at our own perils and that of others.
Although light years away from reversing the damage of global warming, one of the very few unplanned benefits of Covid-19 is the reduction of carbon dioxide, a dominant greenhouse effect gas. Ironically, the decline in human activities hence pollution and carbon dioxide may inadvertently one day safe lives. So, for now, we carry on with the best that we are for the calling of science and the eventual and imminent arrival of the vaccine.
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