“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” Although that maxim is frequently heard in 12-step groups, Mark Twain is credited with saying it first.
Well, transmission ain’t just the gearbox in a car. It’s how the disease spreads from person to person, and relatively little is known about that subject. At first, the world thought children were relatively safe from either catching or passing along COVID-19. As more information became available these beliefs, like many others, began to wilt. Science connected the dots between obesity and race… and then between obesity and the virus.
When it comes to figuring out transmission, the trouble is, we don’t have enough dots.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t
The public wants definitive information on how to protect itself from the threat. It does not want to wait for more reliable science. It wants to know everything, and reach its own conclusions. The public clamors for the facts. Researchers and the press oblige, with detailed information about how long the virus can live on various surfaces in the home and workplace, and what chemicals to clean surfaces with, and how often.
Science moves on, and wider research brings new facts to light. Then after a while, the experts announce, “Maybe we don’t have to worry so much about surfaces.” The public feels betrayed. But it hopefully grasps the next news story anyway. Then, there is another letdown. A promising lead fails to pan out, and the irate public demands, “Then why did you tell us that other thing? Don’t you even know what you’re doing? We’re getting you fired.”
When new information arrives, a certain segment of the public believes that the cover is now being stripped away from deliberate lies. Sometimes, the wackiest conspiracy theories turn out to be not so theoretical, and that obfuscates things even more.
Two steps forward, one step back
There was a widely publicized misunderstanding over hidden carriers, silent spreaders, superspreaders, asymptomatic people, pre-symptomatic people, and so on. Team of writers from the platform Medium.com expanded on that subject. Among others authorities, they contacted Harvard’s Jeremy Faust, M.D., who said,
The message should have been that symptom-free spread has been difficult to detect via contact tracing, not that it isn’t happening.
One problem is that “asymptomatic” is a very misleading term. Journalist Markham Heid quoted Eric Topol, M.D., of the Scripps Research Institute, and provided context:
Just because someone is asymptomatic does not mean that the virus is not doing damage.“If you do a CAT scan of these patients’ lungs, you see significant abnormalities tied to Covid, and these are woefully understudied,” [Dr. Topol] says. “We also know this the virus can go to the heart and kidneys, so that needs to be looked at too.” It’s possible, he adds, that these “below-the-surface problems” may increase a person’s risk for long-term health complications, such as the eventual development of lung disease.
The very nature of the disease is uncertain. The science establishment has been thinking of it as respiratory, but it might be vasculotropic. Maybe we should not even be looking at antiviral drugs, but concentrating instead on statins and ACE inhibitors. It isn’t a “po-tay-to/po-tah-to” kind of debate. As it turns out, to label something as a circulatory system illness rather than a respiratory illness has widely different implications. Lungs are lungs. But blood vessels are in every nook and cranny of the body — 60,000 miles of them.
(More on transmission next time…)
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “What the WHO Really Meant Regarding Asymptomatic Spread,” Medium.com, 06/09/20
Source: “What You Need to Know About Asymptomatic Spread of Covid-19,” Medium.com, 06/10/20
Image by Bryan Alexander/C BY 2.0