History repeats itself again and again
COVID-19's spread throughout the USA is like not only the 1918 flu. North America's infectious disease history traces back to Columbus - or beyond.
As the nation celebrates Indigenous People’s Day (aka Columbus Day,) this is a good time to look at the actual history. While Columbus took “riches” from North America back to his sponsors in Spain, he delivered European diseases that contributed significantly to millions of Native American deaths. The new infectious diseases included measles, flu, bubonic plague, diphtheria, typhus, cholera, chickenpox and whooping cough. Because they had never been exposed to these pathogens before, Americans had no immunity to them. For a detailed look at how measles spread, this 2019 article from the Washington Post is worth a read, as is this journal article on which it is based.
Now to our current public health crisis, in which we are seeing hospitalizations increasing along with more new cases, especially in areas where temperatures are dropping and people are spending more time indoors, where COVID-19 risk may be higher.
Masks and other “non-pharmaceutical” interventions work. The CDC published data showing that Arizona reduced new COVID-19 cases by 75% after implementing nearly-statewide mask and other mandates.
Words matter: Science writer Ed Jong has another powerful article in The Atlantic. This one explains that messages like the president overcame COVID-19 because he is “strong,” a “fighter,” or having a “powerful immune system go against what public health experts say is needed in order to address the wide range of COVID-19 consequences. “Equating disease with warfare … ‘does such a disservice to all of the families who have lost loved ones, or who are facing long-term consequences,’ says Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Brown University,” in the article.
Words matter, in practice: A study of young adults in Wisconsin finds those who believed that COVID-19 posed little risk were influenced by conflicting or negative messages about masks and the belief that COVID-19 did not cause serious illness.
COVID “brain fog” affects perhaps 1/3rd to 1/2 of survivors, according to recent research. Common problems include confusion, disorientation and memory loss, according to Pam Belluck in the New York Times.
Keep sanitizing: An Australian study shows that infectious COVID-19 particles can survive up to 28 days on certain indoor surfaces at typical room temperature. This is nearly twice as long as the flu virus. While the viral amounts were low, the scientists say these results reinforce the importance of diligent hygiene to prevent COVID-19.
The novel coronavirus may affect hearing. Physicians are reporting that some COVID patients had ringing in the ears, and research published in July documented that the virus can be found in the ears of infected patients.
Regeneron’s CEO says the experimental treatment that was given to President Trump should be made widely available, but the president’s case does not change the need for carefully done clinical studies, which are underway.
That’s it for today. Keep washing those hands, giving others space and avoiding gatherings.