Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Washington, as Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, listens. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Have you already had the Wuhan coronavirus?
If you’ve been sick in the past several weeks, then it’s possible.
And if that’s the case, what does it mean? Can you be reinfected?
Dr. Anthony Fauci — director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor in Trump’s COVID-19 task force — said Thursday he thinks those who recover are protected from getting it again.
Of course, the key word is “thinks” — though he put it in slightly stronger terms.
During an appearance on The Daily Show, the good doctor made some substantial points about the Wuhan flu.
First of all, he emphasized that, despite the interview taking place on Comedy Central, COVID-19 is no joke:
“When people used to ask me…what…I most worry about with regard to emerging infection diseases, [it’s] a respiratory-borne illness that easily spreads from person to person but that has a high degree of morbidity and mortality. [U]nfortunately, that’s the worst nightmare that you could have is to have something like that.”
It’s a real chart-topper:
“There are other diseases — Ebola was frightening, but Ebola gets transmitted only when you’re in very close contact with a person who is very, very ill. With this disease…it spreads very easily. You can even spread it when you’re not symptomatic. So it’s insidious and treacherous, in that you could spread it really easily.”
Our usual influenza can’t measure up:
“[T]he mortality of seasonal flu…is about 0.1%. … But the mortality of this is about 10 times that. It’s at least 1%. So it’s a disease that not only is easily spread, but it can be devastating particularly for a certain subset of the population. Demographically different: the elderly, those with underlying conditions — heart disease, lung disease, diabetes. It can be very serious for them with a high degree of mortality.”
Anthony also made clear that “several” folks in their 30’s and 40’s — without extenuating circumstances — have ended up in the ICU.
Apropos, what if you contract the disease, get sick, and make it to the other side? Can you possibly get it again?
It’s a good question — on March 13th, The Los Angeles Times ran a piece about China titled “They Survived the Coronavirus. Then They Tested Positive Again. Why?”
“Although most patients who retest positive do not display clinical symptoms,” it noted, “some have developed fevers and other signs of the virus. One such patient, a 36-year-old man, died in Wuhan on March 2, five days after being declared recovered.”
Obviously, that could all be a reflection of flawed testing:
Such cases account for less than 0.2% of China’s total infections — not enough to cause alarm. But they are raising questions in China about the reliability of diagnostic tests, the possibility of reinfection and whether patients are wrongly designated as “recovered” and released too early from hospitals.
So can you get a second round of Wuhan? Dr. Fauci leans away from the possibility déjà vuhan:
“We don’t know…for 100% certain, ’cause we haven’t done the study to see re-challenges, whether they’ve been protected. But I feel really confident that, if this virus acts like every other virus that we know, once you get infected, get better, clear the virus, that you’ll have immunity that will protect you against reinfection. So it’s never 100%, but I’d be willing to bet anything that people who recover are really protected against reinfection.”
Hopefully, he’s right. If he’s not, clearly, it’s a tremendous complication in our fight against a microscopic monster.
But either way, there are ways we can all reduce the spread. Anthony laid out the wily craft of the coronavirus:
“[T]he things…that you really wanna latch on to is…sneezing and coughing. When someone is ill, they’ve really gotta get themselves out of circulation because they can spread by droplets and even by what we call aerosol, which means the drop doesn’t go down right away. It hangs around for a bit. So you could come into a room thinking everything is alright, and then you inhale it.”
And you might wanna put the kibosh on your ebullient friendliness:
“[A]nother way that’s very important is handshaking. When people…cough…they shake your hand or they open a door knob… You don’t wanna be obsessive compulsive about wiping everything down…but one of the real bad actors is somebody who just opens a door and 15 minutes later — because we know the virus can live on inanimate hard objects like steel or plastic for at least several hours. So…if you really wanna be careful, besides the social distancing of six feet, don’t shake anybody’s hand. Just lose that for a while. And wash your hands as often as you can, because you may be inadvertently touching something.”
How ’bout puttin’ your mitts on surfaces?
“Now…I don’t think we need to get completely obsessed about packages that come in because those types of surfaces — the virus might live there for a very short time, but people say, ‘Should I get a package from a grocery store that says “Made in China”?’ I wouldn’t worry about that. That’s not the issue. It’s more the close things — the hand-washing.”
That’s important for everyone — including young whippersnappers:
“I mean, it’s the typical example — ‘I’m young, I”m healthy.’ But you go home, you infect grandma, grandpa, and your sick uncle. So you have a responsibility — not only to protect yourself, but you almost have a societal, moral responsibility to protect other people.”
Did you get that, all you teenyboppers who read my articles?
Even for the rest of us, it sounds like good advice — on this socially distant, (prayerfully) reinfection-resistant Sunday.
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