Tag Archives: Polio epidemic

Some sanity (and hope) about the Wuhan flu

There is an excellent article in the following link,  https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/03/public-urged-to-ramp-up-social-distancing-increase-coronavirus-tests/

Epidemiology Professor Marc Lipsitch, head of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, called the pace of coronavirus testing in the U.S. “utterly inadequate” and “a debacle” that robs public health officials of information crucial to devising an effective response and protecting health care workers. Testing has been so slow that no one knows the extent of the U.S. epidemic, though scientists guess at somewhere between “tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands” of cases.

Let’s say that is true that 100,000 people in the USA have already been infected.  What does that mean?  It means that most people with it aren’t very sick (we don’t have 100K people in ICUs on respirators).  This is the hope anyway

The CDC monopolized testing for Corona virus for a while and then distributed faulty test kits (while you may not like Trump, this isn’t his fault). So we have no way of knowing what’s out there.

That’s information gap #1 — we don’t know how many people are actively infected with the virus

Information gap #2 is even worse, and very likely longer to be corrected.  We don’t know how many people are out there who have fought the infection off and are no longer sick.  This will require a test for the antibodies to the virus they’ve developed (something that doesn’t happen right away during the acute infection although that’s where it begins).  Such information  is not available now, and likely won’t be for a month or two.

Addendum: Not everyone reading this knows what an antibody is so this is in response to a few questions.  Antibodies are proteins made by your body in response to an invading organism (which kill it).  This is why your kids have measles, mumps and rubella vaccines — they give the kids proteins from the viruses (not the whole organism), and your kids react as if infected by the intact virus (which is why they often seem to have the flu after vaccination), producing antibodies to those proteins, so when the real thing comes sneaking around, your kid’s antibodies recognize it and fight it off.  Having an antibody to the Wuhan flu is perfect evidence that you’ve been infected with it (even if the virus is long gone).  They aren’t something you’d have normally.  It isn’t simple to develop and validate a test for anti-Wuhan antibodies which why I think it will be a while before we have a test we can trust.

This will tell us just how much to worry about the virus.  Most reading this are too young  to remember the polio epidemic (which also put people on respirators). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polio  After antibody tests finally became available it was found that only one out of every one hundred people infected developed paralysis.