Today marks one year after the announcement of the first patient with Kovid-19 in the United States. This happened in Washington state, where a male in his 30s, who had just returned from a trip to Wuhan, China, began experiencing symptoms and quickly sought help at a clinic.
Unlike in movies or on TV, where a sick patient infects everyone in a hospital waiting room, nearby doctors and public health experts in Washington State were prepared: they were carefully monitoring what went on in China. Has been and practice is going on to practice what to do when – if not – an infected patient came to their door. This patient was tested, hospitalized and isolated, contacted, tracked, treated and eventually released. Even though this person was identified as the first patient, it was not the first case in the country.
Over the past year, one patient has grown rapidly to 24 million confirmed cases in the US alone – a number that is certainly only the tip of the iceberg, the cases we are aware of.
Nature of ‘novel’
All these first make me think of the importance of the word “novel”. When was the last time we, as an adult and as a society, experienced anything really for the first time, or were in a situation for which we had no reference?
When we hear about a novel – or anything new – one of the first things we start to do as humans, we find similar examples among the things we are familiar with. Huh. We try to understand the contours of this new entity by comparing what is already stored in our memories and experiences. We look for patterns, similarities, overlaps.
This is human nature. But, many times, this type of thinking gets in our way.
When this novel coronovirus, called SARS-CoV-2, emerged, many scientists, public health officials, and doctors – myself included – were known to clue other deadly coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS for clues to the prediction of such behavior. Saw. We tried to compare it to seasonal influenza virus and flu epidemics, such as those caused by the H1N1 subtype, which closed both the 2009 and 1918 epidemics.
I remember putting my head down, taking all the information I could find: reading research papers and unpublished prior evidence; Talk to colleagues in China, South Korea, Japan and my hospital; Dr. Talking to experts such as Anthony Fauci and global health expert Peter Daszak, whose research has been the key to understanding the origins and effects of emerging diseases. And I remember, everyone had a theory about some aspect of this novel coronovirus – even my mother had a theory.
In the early days, we thought that human-to-human transmissibility was unlikely, that masks were not particularly helpful, that it might not be fatal from the flu, that people did not spread it asymptotically or through the air. Can. Perhaps we expected these things to be true, and the epidemic would not be as devastating as it has been.
But we were wrong. We quickly discovered that SARS-CoV-2 was much more lethal than flu, and much more easily permeable than its close cousins, SARS and MERS. We became aware of the fact that aerosolized particles and asymptomatic carriers are important drivers of its tireless propagation.
The point is, I don’t think anyone would have predicted – or wanted to predict – that we would deal with a global epidemic of this magnitude a year later. We did not want to face such a serious future.
Even the way former President Donald Trump communicated to me that he did not want to contribute to the nervous problem of the American public. But being honest and direct, and telling people the truth, is sometimes difficult. I deal with it all the time as a doctor. A traumatic brain injury after a car accident on the way to work. That headache: an early sign of a brain tumor. I have learned that presenting a problem with a plan does not soften the brunt of terrible news, but it can help reduce the panic, which actually works without purpose. It is also more likely that people will take the issue seriously, rather than just feeling helpless, which can lead to mistrust and ignore the problem altogether.
If I found out in January of last year that we were still living this Kovid lockdown, and I am still interviewing from my basement, then say, a vaccine was developed, in many ways an article. Was very difficult to swallow the pill. But it would have been easy in at least one way: there would be a calendar, a timetable, how things should progress – and a tricky end. The certainty of a countdown to zero, as opposed to the inherent ambiguity of counting to feel as usual. We are not nearly as good in counting as we are counting down. Although painful, when we do the countdown, we still have an expiration date anticipation.
Anniversary is also the time to look at this experience and assess what we got versus what we got wrong.
We got some big things right: We made significant progress in the scientific and medical fields, such as developing protocols and therapeutics – both regenerated and new – for sick people. Most notable, we managed to develop several vaccine candidates and even authorized two with surprising speed.
But we also found many things wrong – most consequentially and tragically public health-related, things that are easy to do but not attractive: wearing masks and physically staying away from people who are not in our house. We eschewed the easy-to-slip cheap masks, yet embraced the billion-dollar success vaccine that Herculine strives to develop and deliver.
The truth is that for many of us, especially in the developed world, we want science to defend us – but it cannot save us from ourselves; We have our own human nature. And our human nature is not good at dealing with what it cannot see.
The other day, someone asked me what major success I would like for future epidemics. Aside from the obvious ones – to avoid a future pandemic, developing an effective vaccine, having access to effective drugs, collecting reliable data – here’s a crazy idea I would like: a fluorescent dye that basically gives the virus just a little Gives a bit of color. So if someone is infected, you can see a small sample of the glow of green particles coming out of their nose and mouth. Not to scare people or drive them out, but because we are so much better at dealing with things that we can identify more clearly than an invisible threat. Trying to convince people what they cannot see, trying to prove a negative (for example, wearing a mask reliably preventing all deaths) has always been a challenge in all preventive medicine. .
Looking ahead, I am optimistic, medically speaking. I think that once most of us are vaccinated, SARS-CoV-2 will become like other circulating coronaviruses, an annual nuisance but not an existential threat.
The United States’ image as a public health leader, however, is tarnished by the events of the past year and the inability to control the epidemic at home. This is a fact, and we cannot follow the data for our own benefit: we have 4% of the world’s population, but 25% of known Kovid infections and 20% of deaths. Can the country’s major public health agency, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, regain some of its lost reputation domestically and abroad? I believe with hard work and time, it can.
But even beyond that, the country will remain psychologically and emotionally scattered for a long time, especially those who have lost family members to Kovid-19, health care workers who once had a tiring struggle – sometimes mistrust. Or worse, care for the sick, children of all ages, who had lost a year of school and struggled to catch up, families who lost income from layoffs or suffered other economic catastrophe, the owners Had to close their businesses. the list goes on.
I have no doubt that we will get through this. And hopefully lessons will be learned, but more importantly, lessons are remembered – because those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, and the price we paid as a society during this epidemic He is too much to let it happen again. This past year has definitely taught us this.
Andrea Kane of CNN Health contributed to this report.