Poli-ticks

Arlene Violet: The coronavirus is not just like the flu

By Arlene Violet
Posted 4/5/20

Since plenty of folks have more time on their hands given the coronavirus pandemic, far too many talk show radio callers are mimicking President Donald Trump who also should stop playing …

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Poli-ticks

Arlene Violet: The coronavirus is not just like the flu

Posted

Since plenty of folks have more time on their hands given the coronavirus pandemic, far too many talk show radio callers are mimicking President Donald Trump who also should stop playing “doctor-in-chief."

Apparently, the President thinks that the adverse economy will hurt his re-election (it shouldn’t albeit there may be other reasons why he should be a one-termer). A premature re-opening of the “public square” will have devastating effects for years to come. Here are reasons why this virus is more deadly than the flu.

At first blush Covid-19 may not look as bad as the flu. Indeed, in parroting the President, some callers to WPRO cite the fact that 37,000 Americans died from the flu last year and the numbers of coronavirus victims have nowhere near  reached that number. This position belies a fundamental understanding of what constitutes a pandemic.

Influenza has likely been around for 2000 years. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, recognized the present flu in his writings, around 400 b.c.e. The advantage in coming down with a virus that has been around for many, many years are that many humans have built up immunity to it. There is a phenomenon known as “herd immunity”. When there are enough people in a community who are immune, it protects people who are not immune. For the latter group flu vaccines are available.

Since the onset of coronavirus at least 4 different strains have mutated. No vaccine exists. The health community has noted that the average incubation period for the flu is 2 days, can infect others 24 hours before symptoms develop and 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Coronavirus has a median incubation period of 5.1 days longer and appears to transmit with ease (Nature, March 12, 2020). The fatality rate is almost 2.5 times that of the flu (Journal of the American Medical Association, March 19, 2020). Deaths in ages 70-79 carried an 8 percent fatality rate, and 80 or older a 14.8 percent among critical cases nearly 50 percent die. Without a vaccine the spread can happen exponentially. With a lack of hospital beds, ventilators, masks, and medications the burden on the health system will far exceed that of the flu.

While some drugs like Chloroquine are touted for treatment of Covid-19, already a shortage has sprung up for those who actually need it to treat or prevent malaria.

Quite to the point, we are in a totally unexpected and unprepared health crisis. The country and the state cannot “rush” to solutions  that will  propagate the virus that kills people. If ever there was a time to take a rational assessment of the coronavirus and its permutations it is now. A half-baked plan of returning to work and gatherings is  tantamount to a death wish on steroids.

 It may seem a lifetime ago that people have been away from work (and I miss my legal clients!) and friends (even worse!) but these are trying and dangerous times. This country and our world neighbors need to get it right and going about business as usual is not a smart move. This is a war where the number of casualties will keep coming unabated  unless we get smart, and resourceful.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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