Here in the small Nation of the British Virgin Islands, we’ve delayed, but we haven’t “beaten,” or completely avoided, the disease caused by the novel, or new, Coronavirus, COVID-19. Everyone who hasn’t yet been infected is still at risk. A lot of us will eventually catch the virus if and when we once again interact with the world at all.
If you want to learn about the current state of the science, this video is excellent by a fantastic teacher.
The Nation has done an excellent job of blunting the effect of the disease, beginning with closing all ports of entry to everyone except residents, back in March, followed by a 6 day “lockdown” with an in-home curfew at night and limitedbusiness and shopping.
Beginning about April 2, Government began enforcing a 24 hour in-home curfew, shutting business and forbidding residents from leaving our homes.
There have been 5 people with positive tests. 4 of them caught the disease in other countries and one person may have caught the disease from the last of those 4. The first 3 had mild cases and appear to be recovering.
Unfortunately, that last case was a woman whose disease was only discovered when she became very sick and had to be admitted to the hospital. She died the next day. One of her contacts has tested positive, but has mild symptoms. Unfortunately, not all of the people she might have interacted with have been identified and tested.
Hopefully, over the last 6 weeks, the BVI health department has had time to plan and prepare for multiple sick patients.
Even more: I hope that researchers around the world will come up with good treatments and discover why some patients get so sick so fast.
If there’s ever a vaccine, it’s years away There haven’t been any successful vaccines for other human strains of coronavirus.
It appears from some recent random testing in the US, that about 25% – 30% of an exposed population contracts the disease. Most either have no symptoms or mild symptoms. A small minority gets sick enough to be hospitalized, and a fraction of those end up in the ICU.
You may have heard about the high “case fatality rate,” reported anywhere from 0.01 to 10. Remember that this statistic only counts those who have been tested, predominantly those sick enough to be admitted to the hospital.
There is good news in addition to the fact that most infected people have mild or no symptoms: evidence that we have immunity after recovery comes from one of the treatments undergoing research: serum containing antibodies from the blood of recovered patients helps other people get well.
The scary part of the story is that the virus is very contagious, largely because people without symptoms can spread the disease. Medical personnel have been surprised by what appears to be the unprecedented, rapidity of the onset of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) in some patients, usually about day 12 to 14 of the symptoms. In a matter of a few hours, patients become very short of breath, requiring intubation. 80%- 90% of those intubated have died in the ICU.
The virus can also cause the body to produce proteins causing increased coagulation (the tendency for blood to clot). It also can directly infect the heart muscle and brain.
As our country opens up, and goes back to (relatively) more normal interaction, it’s important to remember that infected people may not have symptoms, but are still able to share the virus and spread the disease. They don’t know they have it and you certainly can’t tell by looking at them.
We will probably see our neighbors continue “social distancing” and wearing face masks when we leave our homes. And yes, inevitably, some of us will get sick.