The number of people infected with the coronavirus continues to grow with over one and half million confirmed cases worldwide. And most likely, there are tens of millions more who were never tested but have already been infected.
The CDC predicts the number of asymptomatic individuals to be as high 25%.”
If the new SARS coronavirus-2 can’t be contained, what then? The question scientists are wrestling with and the public wants to know, how do we get out of this mess?
The common cold is really made up of a variety of different viruses. Coronaviruses account for about ten to twenty percent of the common cold cases each year. There are four different coronaviruses (229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1) that can cause the common cold. So you’ve most likely been infected with a coronavirus before. All four of these coronaviruses cause symptoms of the common cold, and infections are most often fairly mild.
“It’s going to become a part of our seasonal respiratory virus family that causes disease,” says Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Health Security.
As of right now, Adalja says, the novel coronavirus displays all the signs of sticking around. It’s widespread in the population, transmits from person to person easily and there’s no vaccine that could grant immunity ahead of an infection.
However, a more optimistic observation looking at people who became infected during the SARS epidemic —another type of corona virus and close cousin of the new SARS-coronavirus-2, had long-term immunity lasting some eight to 10 years, reports Dr, Vineet D. Menachery, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
People who have been infected with the new coronavirus may have immunity lasting at least one to two years, he added: “Beyond that, we can’t predict.”
In 2003, the SARS outbreak caused 8,098 people worldwide to become ill. And 774 people died over the course of eight months. COVID-19, on the other hand, has already exceeded one and half million cases and close to 100,00 deaths worldwide in just over three months. And it continues to spread.
COVID-19 is uniquely dangerous due to four attributes that make it both hard to contain and quite lethal: 1) it is easily transmitted, 2) since it’s a new virus humans don’t have immunity or proven medical protocols 3) there are many undetected disease carriers because symptoms are mild in many cases and they do not appear for up to 12 days and 4) the mortality rate is quite high at 1-2%.
One of the main differences in the SARS coronavirus-2, and the other cold viruses, is the aggressive nature of the new virus.
The cold viruses generally get into our upper respiratory tract and that’s about as far as they go.
Our immune system keeps them contained. They may cause a cough, headaches, watery eyes, congestion or sneezing. The SARS coronavirus-2 virus can go into the lower respiratory tract (bottom part of your lungs). Once there it starts replicating really aggressively, generating massive amounts of inflammation and fluid build up making it really hard to breathe. And unlike the cold or flu virus, the damage from COVID-19 can affect all parts of the body including heart, kidneys, muscles, and joints.
So how do we stop this villain?
All About Antibodies And Vaccines
Antibodies, are proteins produced by the immune system to help stop intruders from harming the body. These invaders, which are called antigens, can be viruses, bacteria, or other chemicals. When an antigen is found in the body, the immune system will create antibodies to mark the antigen for the body to destroy.
The antibodies generated in response to infection with some viruses — polio or measles, for example — bestow a lifetime of immunity. But antibodies to the coronaviruses that cause the common cold persist for just one to three years — and that may be true of their new cousin as well.
A study in macaques infected with the new coronavirus suggested that once infected, the monkeys produce neutralizing antibodies and resist further infection. But it is unclear how long the monkeys, or people infected with the virus, will remain immune.
Vaccines Are Main Stream Answer
Vaccines containing these weakened or killed germs are introduced into your body, usually by injection. Your immune system reacts to the vaccine in a similar way that it would if it were being invaded by the disease — by making antibodies. The antibodies destroy the vaccine germs just as they would the disease germs — like a training exercise. Then they stay in your body, giving you immunity. If you are ever exposed to the real disease, the antibodies are there to protect you.
Experts are cautioning that the development of a vaccine to help individuals create their own antibodies to the new virus is likely to take 12 to 18 months, with further time required to scale up dose production and administer the vaccine. Corona viruses like influenza viruses are based on a single strand of RNA. This viral class of viruses can mutate, requiring constant development of new vaccines, similar to the flu.
However, I believe the vaccine will become available sooner.
The global vaccine R&D effort in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in terms of scale and speed. Given the imperative for speed, there is an indication that vaccine could be available under emergency use or similar protocols by early 2021.
In 2009, a novel H1N1 flu pandemic occurred. (Remember swine flu?) The WHO declared a pandemic that June, and by mid-September, the FDA approved four vaccines for the virus, and they started getting administered in October. In late December, vaccination was opened up to anyone who wanted it, and the pandemic was deemed over in August 2010, according to a timeline from the CDC.
As of April 8, 2020, the global COVID-19 vaccine R&D landscape includes 115 vaccine candidates, of which 78 are confirmed as active.
Most COVID-19 vaccine development activity is in North America, with 36 (46%) developers of the confirmed active vaccine candidates compared with 14 (18%) in China, 14 (18%) in Asia (excluding China) and Australia, and 14 (18%) in Europe.
It appears from the experts in the field COVID-19 is not going to disappear even when the stay at home orders are removed. And given the fact that a vaccine is months away at best, I recommend you continue practicing stay preventative hygiene (read previous article regarding preventative measure, HERE)
You should continue to practice social distancing and if possible limit exposure to others when returning to regular daily activities.
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