1. We know what it is. The first cases of AIDS were described in June 1981 and it took more than two years to identify the virus (HIV). With Covid 19 the first cases of severe pneumonia were recorded in China on 31 December 2019 and by January 7 the virus had been identified. The Genome was available on day 10. We know that it is new Coronavirus from Group 2B of the same family as SARS which we have called SARSCov2. The disease is called Covid 19. Genetic analyses have confirmed that is has a recent natural origin and that although viruses live by mutating, it's mutation rate might not be very high.
2. We know how to detect the virus. Since January 13 a test to detect the virus has been available.
3. The situation in China is improving. The strong control and isolation programme measures imposed in China are now paying off. The number of cases diagnosed every day is decreasing. A detailed epidemiological follow-up is being carried out in other countries; outbreaks are very specific to areas which can allow them to be controlled more easily.
4. The disease causes no symptoms or is mild in 81% of cases. Of course, in the remaining 14% it can cause severe pneumonia and in 5% it can become critical or even fatal. It is still unclear what the final death rate may be. It could be lower than some estimates so far.
5. People heal. Much of the reported data relates to the increase in the number of confirmed cases and teh number of deaths, but most infected people are cured. There are 13 times more cured cases than deaths and that proportion is increasing.
6. Symptoms appear mild in children. Only 3% of cases occur in people under 20 and mortality under 40 is only 0.2%. Symptoms in children are so mild that it can go completely unnoticed.
7. The virus can be wiped clean. It can be effectively inactivated from surfaces with a solution of ethanol (62.71% alcohol), hydrogen peroxide (0.5% hydrogen peroxide) or sodium hypochlorate (0.1% bleach) in just one minute. Frequent hand washing with soap and water is the most effective way to avoid contagion.
8. Science is on it, globally. This is the age of international scientific co-operation (Globalisation, eh..? Huh..!!). After just a month, 164 articles could be accessed in PubMed on Covid 19 or SARSCov2, as well as many others available in repositories of articles not yet peer reviewed.. They are the preliminary works on vaccines, treatments, epidemiology, genetics and phylogen, diagnosis, clinical aspects and so on. These articles are elaborated by more than 700 authors and distributed all over the planet. This is co-operative science, shared and open. With the SARS epidemic it took more than a year to reach less than half that number of articles.
9. There are already vaccine prototypes. Our ability to design new vaccines is spectacular There are already more than 8 projects under way seeking a vaccine. There are groups that work on vaccination projects against similar viruses The vaccine group of the University of Queensland in Australia has announced that it is working on a prototype using the technique we call "Molecular Clamp". It's a novel technology, just one example that could allow vaccine production in record time. Prototypes may soon be tested on humans.
10. Antiviral trials are underway. Vaccines are preventive but right now the treatment of people who are already sick is important. There are already more than 80 clinical trials analysing Coronavirus treatments. These are antivirals that have been used for other infections which are already approved and we know are safe. One of those that has already been tested is Remdivisivir, a broad spectrum antiviral still under study which has been tested against Ebola and SARS/MERS. Another candidate is Chloroquine, an antimalarial that has been seen to have potent antiviral activity. It is known that Chloroquine blocks viral infection by increasing the Ph of the endosome* which is needed for the fusion of the virus with the cell, thus inhibiting its entry.
The 1918 flu pandemic caused 25 million deaths in less than 25 weeks. I think that should give us all a better sense of proportion about Covid 19.
Could such a death toll occur this time? Probably not We have never been better prepared to fight a pandemic.
* For those who have forgotten their GCSE biology, Endosomes are membrane bound structures within a cell called vesicles. They're formed through a complex establishment of processes known as endocytosis. They're essential for the control of substances in and out of a cell. They act as temporary vesicles for transportation