We must stop the coronavirus curve: the vaccine is everyone

By Ignacio López-Goñi, university of Navarra

The WHO has declared that the disease COVID19 is already a pandemic. Recall that this word means that there is a sustained, effective and continuous transmission of the disease simultaneously in more than three different geographical regions. This is not synonymous with death: it does not refer to the lethality of a virus but to its transmissibility and geographical extension. No, we are not all going to die.

But why are the health authorities so insistent on these containment and isolation measures now, and why are they so necessary?

In an infectious agent epidemic, the number of cases increases progressively over time. To understand how an epidemic spreads in a population, three types of individuals must be considered: those who can contract the infection, those who are already infected, and those who have recovered and are no longer susceptible to illness.

At first the number of susceptibles is high and the number of infected increases rapidly. As time passes, the number of susceptibles decreases (because they have been cured, immunized, vaccinated or have died). There are fewer people to infect and we are at the peak of the epidemic. It is what is called the density limit: the minimum number of individuals necessary to continue the disease. Once the pathogen is reached, it can no longer be transmitted as effectively in the population and the number of cases decreases. So are the epidemic curves.

Author provided

How fast the epidemic goes and what beaked Whether that curve is depends on many factors. Among others, the transmissibility of the virus and whether the population is more or less susceptible to becoming infected. The problem with this SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is that it is very transmissible and, being new, the population has not had previous contact with it, they do not have immunity and, in principle, we are all susceptible to getting sick.

Knowing where we are on the epidemic curve is very difficult.

If the epidemic is going very fast and the curve is very sharp, one of the most serious problems is the collapse of the health system. Having 10 cases in 10 days is not the same as having 100 in a single day. Although 80% of cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection may be asymptomatic or mild, in 16% it can cause pneumonia and in 4% it can be fatal (provisional figures).

Pneumonia is not a cold, it can be very serious and in many cases it requires going to a hospital and even being admitted. That is the big problem, that the capacity limit of the health system is exceeded and it collapses.

What is above the capacity limit may be deaths.

Figure. Author provided

That is why it is so important to stop the curve, the intervention measures. The goal is not to keep people from becoming infected, this is probably inevitable, but to delay and reduce the peak of the epidemic. For this, there are containment measures that are applied in the first days of the curve. It is when you have few outbreaks and are very localized, you know how they have been infected, you can diagnose and isolate the infected and follow up on people who have been in contact with that person and quarantine them.

Isolating the bulbs could slow down the curve.

But sometimes with that it is not enough and the number of infected increases. As I have said, knowing at what point we are on the epidemic curve is very difficult. It is then when you must adopt more drastic measures, social quarantines, which must be as effective and sustainable over time and as least disruptive as possible.

What are those measurements? What real benefit will each have to stop the curve and what risk does it pose to the life of the citizen? That is a very difficult and complex decision. That is what the health authorities and governments are for, who are primarily responsible.

Therefore, we are now in the phase of stopping the curve. Perhaps you are one of those 80% of healthy people who will become infected and pass it more or less lightly. But your actions can contribute to slowing down the curve or to exceeding the capacity of the system. We have to shield our hospitals and protect our toilets. We have to protect the weakest, the most susceptible to getting sick and even dying, not only from the virus but also from the collapse of the health system. Older people with previous pathologies are the most vulnerable.

That is why all these measures that are being announced to us are so important. They are difficult, uncomfortable, they will affect us financially, but they are necessary. The best thing for a virus is a lot of people, very close and moving. The less we move and the further apart we are, the better.

10 basic tips for #FrenarLaCurva:

1. Do not panic, being alert is not an alarm.

2. Wash your hands frequently and put it to good use when sneezing and coughing.

3. Exercise social distancing: not kisses, hugs, handshakes. Find alternatives.

4. Do not go to crowded places: cultural, sports and entertainment events.

5. Avoid traveling if it is not absolutely essential. Reduce your trips on public transport.

6. If you can, cut down on meetings and work from home.

7. If you have any symptoms, stay home and use the telephones indicated for it.

8. Do not go to the hospital if it is not absolutely essential.

9. Take care and protect especially the most vulnerable people, with previous pathologies and adults.

10. Above all, stay calm, there is also good news about the coronavirus.

This will happen, but we have to stop the blow. Remember: the vaccine is you!

Information for citizens of the Ministry of Health

Ignacio López-Goñi, Professor of Microbiology, University of Navarra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.