Let The NYT Daily Catch You Up.
In the July 6th episode of The Daily, you get one month’s worth of Donald Neil’s reporting on COVID-19. Neil is a veteran science and epidemiology journalist. He filters through conflicting views of the progression of the virus. You learn that COVID-19 is:
- A vascular, not a respiratory disease that attacks several organs of the body including the lungs, kidneys, gut, and brain, making it much more complicated to manage and treat than the seasonal flu.
- The original COVID-19 strain that originated in Wuhan, China, mutated to what we refer to as, the European strain, in mid-February. This strain made the virus more transmissible, but not necessarily more virulent.
- The virus is airborne. Outdoor spaces are much safer compared to being indoors. However, six feet of space should be maintained outside.
- Young children are less likely to transmit the virus compared to their older peers and adult counterparts. School may be a possibility for elementary-aged school children this Fall.
Flu-COVID ‘Collision’ Expected this Fall, Health Experts Warn
Getting your flu vaccine this Fall will play a critical role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. As we brace for the second wave of COVID-19, we need to prepare for the dangerous collision of two deadly viruses, influenza and COVID-19. Last year, only 45% of adults were vaccinated against influenza. This number needs to exponentially increase to avert overcrowding of hospitalizations, ICUs, and mortality from both the seasonal flu and COVID-19.
COVID-19: The Number of Antibodies Neutralizing the Virus Decreases after 6 Weeks
A recent study has shown that approximately 6 in 10 people generate neutralizing antibodies to COVID-19 two weeks after symptom onset, while the remaining 4 in 10 do not even mount an antibody response. This antibody response mounted by 6 out of 10 individuals decreases after about 6 weeks. These findings suggest that when a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, we will likely have to get booster shots for long-term protection of the population.
How Scientists Know COVID-19 is Way Deadlier than the Flu
Through using a more accurate and comprehensive measure, called the case fatality rate, researchers estimate that the COVID-19 fatality rate is 1.46%, twice as high as predicted earlier. This number is much higher than the misinformed fatality rate reported on social media. Columbia University researchers found that for 1 to 10 people who die for every 100,000 infected with seasonal influenza, there are 500 to 1,000 fatal cases for every 100,000 infected with COVID-19. These findings support that Coronavirus is likely to be 50 to100 times deadlier than the seasonal flu.
Recently, there is a false sense of security surrounding mortality and COVID-19 as we are not seeing a rising death rate. Even though the U.S. is currently reporting almost 50,000 cases daily, it takes upwards of 4 weeks for the death rate to catch up to cases being reported. For example, if someone is infected with COVID-19 today, they generally don’t show symptoms for 5 days on average. Then it can take up to two weeks to experience symptoms; another 5-8 days to experience difficulty breathing since symptoms began, and then another 10-12 days on average to be admitted to the ICU since symptom onset. Then take into account the bureaucracy involved for reporting cases to the states and the CDC- this all adds up to a lag in the reported death rates.
Keep in mind that just because you are younger, you are not immune to the morbidity and mortality of COVID-19. Although younger people are at a lower risk of dying, many have, and still will require hospitalization. Statistics show that adults under 50 years old made up 25% of the hospitalizations during the initial wave, and that share has now increased to 35% since the beginning of May.
MMR Vaccine Could Protect Against the Worst Symptoms of COVID-19
Researchers have recently discovered that the MMR vaccine could have a protective role against the worst symptoms of COVID-19. This may be particularly beneficial to health care workers and other individuals that are commonly exposed to COVID-19. The live MMR vaccine can confer “nonspecific protection against lethal infections unrelated to the target pathogen of the vaccine”. A booster MMR can enhance the antibodies to measles, mumps, and rubella and reinitiate what are called myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). These MDSCs have been shown to inhibit sepsis and severe lung inflammation that is associated with COVID-19. Recent epidemiological data suggest a correlation between people in geographical locations who have received the MMR vaccine and reduced COVID-19 mortality.