The new coronavirus and Nature’s laws.

As the world is waiting, poised at the brink of a new infectious disease pandemic, we have more questions than we have answers for. How much worse will nCoV-2019 turn out to be? The situation seems dire, especially with the increasing numbers seen in Italy.
  • The ones worst affected seem to be the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, lung and/or heart issues, and immune compromise.
    • Not surprising since these individuals are at higher risk of any infection.
  • The virus causes pneumonia, which results in an inability of the lung to do its job well.
    • People who become severely ill, get hospitalized, often needing help breathing.
      • When they succumb, it’s mostly due to respiratory failure.

How easily does nCoV-2019 spread?  We now know that asymptomatic transmission is possible. Judging by the rapid spread in China, and now South Korea and Italy, active spread by subclinical infections  also seems highly likely – this means a person is infected and yet, does not and will not develop symptoms, in spite of the ability to spread the virus.

Can inanimate objects transmit the virus?  Yes. What we don’t know is how long an inanimate object stays contagious.

How long do sneeze droplets or aerosols stay infectious in air space or on an object such as a door handle or elevator push button?  In the absence of answers, we have to treat the situation like we would for someone with measles or tuberculosis – two hours after infected person leaves that area.

Science and technology have advanced to such a tremendous degree that we have potential vaccine candidates against this virus. We would be able to start clinical trials by end of March, which means a potential vaccine in a year or two.

It was important for the Department of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency on January 31.

  • A declaration of that nature enables emergency use authorization of medical products (including vaccine and drug candidates) from the FDA.

Research (previous and current) is helping, highlighting the need for continued funds earmarked purely for research. Chinese researchers have initiated clinical testing of three drugs that appeared to inhibit nCoV-2019:

  • a drug that had been formulated against the Ebola virus – remdesivir
    • Here in the United States, are have already begun a randomized, controlled clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of remdesivir in hospitalized adults diagnosed with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha.
  • a well-established anti malarial drug – chloroquine, which research has shown to also have antiviral effects and
  • anti-HIV drug combination – lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra).

More than anything, the emergence of this virus stresses the importance of ongoing surveillance that will help identify new infectious disease outbreaks, so we can move quickly to curb it and possibly, eliminate it.

This is Nature’s age-old dance between one of her smallest pathogens, too small to be seen with the naked eye, and a species that dominates and adds a new twist to the Darwinian adage, ‘Survival of the Fittest’.
  • There is one thing that we have in common with these microorganisms.
    • All viruses want to do is self-propagate.
      • They seek new hosts they can use to grow even more viruses.
    • That’s what we do.
      • In our quest to be more populous, we end up encroaching on habitat normally populated by wild animals, consequently increasing our chance of zoonotic spillover.
        • Or we use wild animal skin, scales, meat etc. to formulate herbal products as remedies for our ailments.
As only one of the species on this planet, we would do well to adapt. I am confident and optimistic that we will let history be our teacher, guiding us away from potentially risky behavior that  threatens human health.

Yes, we have synthesized our way to a chemical world that brings us convenience and the ability to cheat disease.

  • However, Nature’s principles still apply to us
    • natural selection, and
    • survival of the fittest.

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