The Virus is here to Stay
There’s a good chance the Corona Virus will never go away. Even after a vaccine is discovered and deployed, the coronavirus will likely remain for decades to come, circulating among the world’s population. Experts call such diseases endemic — stubbornly resisting efforts to stamp them out, like measles, HIV, Chicken Pox. It is a daunting proposition — a coronavirus-tinged world without a foreseeable end. But experts in epidemiology, disaster planning and vaccine development say embracing that reality is crucial to the next phase of America’s pandemic response. With so much else uncertain, the persistence of the novel virus is one of the few things we can count on about the future. That doesn’t mean the situation will always be as dire. There are already four endemic coronaviruses that circulate continuously, causing the common cold. And many experts think this virus will become the fifth — its effects growing milder as immunity spreads and our bodies adapt to it over time.
For now, though, most people have not been infected and remain susceptible. And the highly transmissible disease has surged in recent weeks, even in countries that initially succeeded in suppressing it, like India. Left alone, experts say, it will simply keep burning through the world’s population. Combating endemic diseases requires long-range thinking, sustained effort and international coordination. Stamping out the virus could take decades — if it happens at all. Such efforts take time, money and, most of all, political will.Americans have only started to wrap their heads around the idea. U.S. leaders and residents keep searching for a magic bullet to bring the pandemic to an abrupt end: The White House continues to suggest summer' heat will smother the virus or that it will mysteriously vanich.
Meanwhile, some states are rushing healdlong into reopening their economies, compelled by economic pressure and political compulsions. Even those moving more cautiously haven’t developed tools to measure what’s working and what isn’t — a crucial feature for any prolonged scientific experiment. We need a comprehensive battle strategy, meticulously implemented.Leaders desperately need to shift their response from short-term crisis management to long-term solutions. Communities should be thinking about installing doors that don’t require grasping a handle, and re-engineering traffic signals so pedestrians don’t have to push crosswalk buttons. Families may have to make diagnostic tests routine ahead of visits to grandparents. Paid sick time might become a necessity for jobs of all types. And heading to work while under the weather may no longer be seen as an act of admirable American can-do spirit but instead a threat to co-workers and the bottom line.
More immediately, states should be using this time to craft quick-response systems and protocols. With hundreds of cities and counties reopening, think of each as a mini laboratory yielding valuable data on what will work against the virus in coming years. The metrics being employed by states remain crude: daily number of deaths, hospitalization rates and confirmations of cases long after people show symptoms. What’s needed are more sophisticated testing strategies, say experts, that could serve as canaries in the coal mine — increasing our speed and ability to detect surges in the virus. States could select certain populations or areas to test extensively. They could establish a handful of sites that test only patients who have developed symptoms in the last four days, to increase sensitivity to sudden increases in transmission.
Living long-term with the virus also means addressing the mental health effects. There’s an assumption among many leaders that increases in depresssion and anxiety are a temporary problem that will eventually disappear along with the virus. Eventually, many experts believe this coronavirus could become relatively benign, causing milder infections as our immune systems develop a memory of responses to it through previous infection or vaccination. But that process could take years. The success of those vaccines will hinge on distribution — a complicated, logistically fraught process.
In the first few years of a vaccine, global demand will outstrip what manufacturers are able to supply. Roughly 60 to 80 percent of the world’s population needs to be inoculated to reach herd immunity — that point when enough people have become resistant to a virus that it has difficulty spreading widely. Without international agreements worked out beforehand, the short supply could devolve into bidding wars, hoarding and ineffective vaccination campaigns.
In the United States, the crucial job of distribution will depend on federal and local health departments, which have already shown signs of limited capacity and competence amid this pandemic. America already has vaccines for measles and the seasonal flu, which can be deadly. And yet the health-care system struggles every year to convince to get those shots. Looking further down the road, many top experts believe it’s critical that U.S. leaders start planning for the next pandemic now — even as they contend with this one — because of the short attention span and lack of political and public support for preparedness the country has shown in past decades. The struggle to get people to think long-term, of course, is not new to public health.We know that smoking can kill us. Yet, it is still responsible for 1 of every 5 deaths in the United States. Increasingly, leading experts believe many Americans won’t make the shift toward long-range thinking until the virus spreads more widely and affects someone they know. Contrast that with people who have lost someone to drunk driving,” he said. It mobilizes them and becomes a cause for them. Eventually, everyone is going to know someone who got infected or died from this virus. But the world has achieved that only once, with smallpox — a measure of just how difficult it is for vaccines to wipe out diseases.
America already has vaccines for measles and the seasonal flu, which can be deadly. And yet the health-care system struggles every year to convince people to get those shots.Looking further down the road, many top experts believe it’s critical that U.S. leaders start planning for the next pandemic now — even as they contend with this one — because of the short attention span and lack of political and public support for preparedness the country has shown in past decades.
So how come we expect a cure for the C19 to appear magically? It wont and we need to learn how to live with it, take precautions and change our ways, just like we did for the common cold or Aids. However, it will be a different world that we shall live in.
Soumya Dutta, Eforex India