The year is 1799, and you live in one of the biggest cities in America. You have a good job in a pharmacy and enjoy your life. One day a young man named Robbert comes in for his prescription and wants to talk to the pharmacist about a strange rash that has appeared on his body. Strange because he has never had a rash like this one before. The pharmacist asks you to come down to the pharmacy to help take a closer look at Robbert’s rash since it’s not an everyday thing. After feeling his pulse and checking his blood pressure, you determine that his heart is racing and that something is wrong. You tell him he needs to go to the hospital right away, and that is when the fun truly begins…
The Last Stand
The year is 2027, and you live in a world devastated by the pandemic known as ‘the Plague’.
Around the world, in the middle of an epidemic, people are fighting for their lives. The healthcare system is struggling to cope, and in many countries essential services have broken down. In some places bodies are stacking up and there are no longer any burials because there’s no one left to bury them. It was a short, wild ride to the end of the world as we know it, and not a moment too soon…
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a hunch this is going to be a long and tiring story, so I had better get to the good part first. In the meanwhile, you’d best get ready to watch Dr. Pattinson at work. Enjoy!
What Is COVID-19?
The world is currently suffering from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which was first discovered in 2019. It causes a respiratory illness that is similar to that of the common cold. However, being similar does not necessarily mean it is easy to treat. In fact, as the number of cases increase, so does the difficulty of treating them. That’s why, at this point, there is no proven vaccine (as of July 2020) and more than 500,000 people have died from this pandemic so far.
It is important to note that COVID-19 is not caused by living in poverty. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus “is affecting people from all walks of life, including those from socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged groups.”
Although the numbers are still rising, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Many people are now praying for a vaccine, and after months of research and development there is finally hope for an effective treatment. In the meantime, we should all be practicing good hygiene and social distancing to minimize the spread of the virus.
Where Did It Begin?
The beginning of the coronavirus pandemic is still shrouded in mystery. However, scientists have narrowed the possible origins down to five places:
- Wuhan, China
Of these, the most probable place of origin is Wuhan, China, according to the WHO. The virus first emerged there in mid-December 2019, and as of March 11, 2020 there were 28,098 cases and 1,769 deaths. Wuhan is also the location of the original genetic sequencing of the virus, which was published in the prestigious journal Nature on January 11, 2020.
To be clear, this does not mean that anyone traveling from Wuhan to America will necessarily get sick. It’s more likely that someone in America would get sick first and then travel to Wuhan for treatment. Of course, this is all speculation until we have more conclusive evidence, but it is helpful to think about where the virus came from in order to understand the spread of the pandemic and how we can stop it.
How Is It Spreading?
Unfortunately, just like many pandemics before it, the COVID-19 virus is quickly becoming a global health issue. As of March 11, 2020 there were 631,542 cases and 29,914 deaths. The majority of the cases (81%) are in China, where the virus first emerged, and the rest are in other parts of the world. Here is a map showing the spread of the virus (blue circles) as of March 11:
In the last week of February, Thailand reported its first case of COVID-19. Since then the number of cases has steadily risen, and as of March 11 there were 2,937 cases and 85 deaths. On February 29, 2020, the WHO officially announced that the coronavirus was a ‘pandemic’, warning that it could spread quickly across the world. In response, many countries have banned all travel from and to Thailand. Fortunately, Thailand has one of the best healthcare systems in the region, and the government is taking measures to combat the spread of the virus.
Why Is It So Deadly?
COVID-19 is one of the deadliest viruses we have ever seen. On the surface it may seem like a regular old cold, but the mortality rate is much higher than that of the common cold. According to the WHO, the viral infection is “…causing substantial illness and death globally.”
In fact, the virus has a mortality rate of 2.3%, which is more than ten times the rate of the common cold. In addition, the disease is highly contagious, and as more people get sick, the rate of infection increases. This is why, at this point, there is no known cure for COVID-19, and no one is precisely sure how many people have died from it. The best we can do is reduce the rate of infection and spread via proper hand washing and social distancing. As of April 10, 2020 there were 531,471 cases and 26,816 deaths from COVID-19 worldwide. The majority of the deaths (62%) occurred in China, where the virus first emerged. In addition, more than 100,000 people have now died from this disease in America. As horrific as these numbers are, the situation is improving. There are still more than 300,000 cases in China, where the pandemic started, and at least 25,000 cases and 500 deaths in America.
How Is It Being Treated?
Unfortunately, the development of a vaccine has proven to be very difficult. After more than a year of trying, researchers at the University of Oxford finally developed a vaccine, which they are now testing on animals.
If successful, this vaccine could provide some measure of protection for humans against COVID-19. In the meantime, a number of treatments are also being tested and in some cases proven to be effective. In addition to that, the Chinese government has announced the development of a new drug combination called ‘Remdesivir’, which they claim is effective against the coronavirus. This drug has not yet been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for human use, but researchers claim it can halt the spread of the virus in cell cultures and prevent mice from developing symptoms.
Other treatments under investigation include the following:
- Antiviral medications
- Methylated flavonoids
- Human Serum Albumin
- Interferon Beta
Many people are also self-isolating and avoiding social gatherings to limit the spread of the virus. However, it is important to note that none of these treatments are a ‘silver bullet’ and they will not provide absolute protection against COVID-19. It is still very much a numbers game, and the more people practice good hygiene and stay home, the slower the spread of this dreadful disease will be and the better our chances of finding a lasting solution.
What About Recurrence?
Just because a virus is contained does not mean it is over. As we discussed above, the mortality rate from COVID-19 is extremely high compared to that of the common cold, and this virus can easily be transmitted via coughs and sneezes. Therefore, if you are exposed to COVID-19 you will automatically be at risk of getting it again. This is why, after the initial incubation period, you will be at risk of getting sick with COVID-19 for the rest of your life.
This does not mean you will necessarily get sick again, but it does mean you are now susceptible to contracting the virus again. Fortunately, there is currently no cure for COVID-19, but there is hope that one day a vaccine will be developed.