Coronavirus Chronicles — Mysteries of Transmission

School may be better than home for most kids, and especially for obese kids. But will school ever again be what it was? In response to the pandemic, educational institutions might be poised to change extensively, and in ways that upset an astonishing number of groups for various reasons. School might become even worse for kids of every kind.

In pursuit of safe and viable schools, one of the major stumbling blocks is the mystery of transmission. In their quest to insert themselves into human populations, different disease organisms exhibit different patterns, and science does not seem anywhere close to having this one figured out.

For The New York Times, an incredibly talented team has made a map giving an animated account of exactly how the virus spread and how some outbreaks were traceable back to a single individual. In mid-February, when Washington announced the existence of 15 cases, there actually were an estimated 2,000 unrecognized cases. About half of them had come from outside the U.S. while others were connected to Seattle somehow. At first, only big cities were affected. But the creepy swarms of little red dots tell the story.

In June, belief was strong in the idea that the virus dies quickly in sunny, humid environments. In drier sunny weather, it was thought to live a little longer but not really be a serious threat. At the same time, Dr. Michael Osterholm and others had studied similar viruses that are unfazed by hot weather, so nothing was definite.

And then, there is the whole “superspreader” phenomenon. Currently it appears that as few as 10% of infected people could be responsible for about 80% of the transmissions. Why? University of California professor Jamie Lloyd-Smith says,

Some people with the virus may have a higher viral load, or produce more droplets when they breathe or speak, or be in a confined space with many people and bad ventilation when they’re at their most infectious point in their illness.

And now, here is a new cause for worry. It is quite possible that our beloved furry pets — including dogs, cats, monkeys, ferrets, and hamsters — might spread the coronavirus. They are already known to be susceptible to infection by it. In The Lancet Microbe, Professor Joanne Santini highlighted this as an area in need of prioritization, saying,

Virus transmission in animal populations could become irreversible if left unchecked, and may threaten the success of existing public health measures if people continue to catch the virus from an infected population of animals.

The suspects are not just pets, which is why Prof. Santini and other University College London scholars ask for “a mass surveillance program of all animals that live close to humans.” Creatures raised for commercial purposes, like rodents, pigs, and bats, are very capable of functioning as “reservoir species” where the virus can kick back and hang out, in between setting forth on murderous missions into the human stock.

After investigators in the Netherlands learned that two human mink farm workers caught COVID-19 from them, 10,000 animals had to be sacrificed, their fur unharvested, their lives wasted. How did the minks catch it? From feral cats. Fun fact: In America there are, by conservative estimate, at least eighty million (80,000,000) feral cats.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How the Virus Won,” NYTimes.com, 06/25/20
Source: “America Is Giving Up on the Pandemic,” TheAtlantic.com, 06/07/20
Source: “How Exactly Do You Catch Covid-19? There Is a Growing Consensus,” WSJ.com, 06/16/20
Source: “Cats and dogs ‘could spark a second wave of coronavirus cases’ experts now warn,” Mirror.co.uk, 06/19/20
Image by Iforce/Flickr

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:

Presentations

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources