Coronavirus Chronicles — Transmission, Crux of the School Debate

The school question is still very much with us. Some schools have opened for the fall term and and already closed again; others operate under a spectrum of philosophical beliefs and legally mandated actions, in strange permutations of school, home, and electronic settings. People have their differing reasons for wanting schools to go back to “normal.” Of course, we are urgently concerned about some very impactful conjunctions: obesity + coronavirus; obesity + school; obesity + home; school + coronavirus, and so on.

Many of the discussions about school focus on how the disease spreads, and the multiple factors that must be taken into account, if any sense is to be made of the topic. The transmission researchers are working overtime, and discovery in this area is moving along.

By now, people know more than enough about what to do, to keep a pretty good leash on transmission. The problem is that, for an astonishing variety of reasons, many people will not do those things. Social media are rife with examples of mask wearers being called rude names. There are, thank goodness, only a few reports of maskers being physically attacked, but they have a chilling effect on the undecided.

Among all this confusion it seems, at the moment, that there is no right answer for obesity prevention. The stay-at-home scenario and the school scenario are both riddled with flaws. (Of course, either of those environments could step up their game by absorbing the principles of W8Loss2Go. Yes, there is an app.) Since the crux of the school debate is transmission, no child’s obesity is going to improve until we get it figured out.

Who has found what?

In mid-August, journalist Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune combed the airwaves for information on viral load, or what happens when people are exposed to different quantities of virus particles. He found a small study in which 46 volunteers were given various doses of H1N1 flu virus, which performs similarly but is not quite so dangerous to experiment with. The result was that “giving patients more disease meant it was more likely they had symptoms and more likely that they were contagious.”

What about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes our current pandemic? Studies were done with hamsters — a cage full of infected ones next to a cage full of healthy ones. By setting up fans, either with or without surgical masks between the cages, they found that indeed, less of a viral load makes less sickness. They talk about it in terms of dose — which seems weird, because we are used to thinking of dosage as a way to measure beneficial medicines, rather than deadly organisms — but that’s science.

But what about humans? It would be unethical to intentionally infect them with the novel coronavirus, so instances had to be found where the unsupervised activity of people set up natural experiments:

The earliest such study is probably from Gangelt, the small German town in which an indoor festival led to a big coronavirus outbreak. Researchers found that those who went to the festival and caught the big dose in a superspreading event had a longer list of symptoms than those who weren’t at the festival and caught the disease secondhand.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “What research says about the amount of coronavirus you are initially exposed to,”, 08/16/29
Image by Marco Verch/CC BY 2.0

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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:


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.

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