In 2017-2018 45,000,000 people had seasonal influenza in the US and 61,000 people died of it.
“Coronavirus,” the cause of COVID 19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019) at this point has infected 92,303 cases worldwide with 3,132 deaths, which is a 3.4 % risk of dying. Taking all comers, healthy people have a 0.9% chance of dying, while people with heart disease have a 10.5% chance of dying. The virus has an affinity for lung tissue because the viral surface has little projections that fit precisely into mirror image receptacles on the lung cell surface. If it gets into the lungs, it takes over the lung cell’s DNA by inserting itself into our DNA and starts reproducing, as viruses lack the ability to reproduce without using cells of other organisms like us. It’s all about reproduction! That process kills the lung cell, and we are left with fewer and fewer lung cells to exchange CO2 for O2. When there are not enough lung cells to exchange the gases, we become hypoxic (not enough O2 for the brain) and we die. 97% of us can beat the virus by making antibodies, and we recover. Depending on what kind of other diseases we harbor anywhere from 3% to 10.5% of us can’t. Coronavirus is more virulent than regular flu, but not as virulent as some. There are plenty of other viruses that are worse. Ebola, for example, kills 50% of its victims, and smallpox had a 20% mortality in unvaccinated individuals. But the 1918 pandemic (Spanish flu) killed 100,000,000 people, the worst pandemic in human history.
So far, COVID 19 has not been all that impressive in the US, 121 cases with 9 deaths. Of course, that is not what could happen. If we don’t take the correct infection control measures, we will be in a world of hurt, so to speak! The steps that have been made so far exceed anything that has been done in the past. I believe that if we take the common-sense steps we are told to do, we will remain relatively safe. Ultimately a vaccine is the answer.
We owe vaccination to Edward Jenner, a physician, who noticed that milkmaids who contracted a benign disease called cowpox from the infected udders of cows did not contract deadly smallpox. During Jenner’s time 1/5th of the English population secumbed to smallpox. In 1796 Jenner took some of the pus from a milkmaid’s hand that had the cowpox variola and scratched the skin of his first patient, the son of his gardener, placing a small amount of the pus on it. It produced a local infection but never spread to the whole person. It worked, and no one that underwent vaccination got smallpox. Jenner is credited with saving more lives than any other human being in all of history. The Latin word for cow is vaca. Hence he called his procedure vaccination. In the early 1970s smallpox vaccination was stopped, and by 1979 WHO (the World Health Organization) declared smallpox eradicated from the face of this earth. The virus is no longer present in our world except in one laboratory that keeps the culture under close guard primarily for the study of this once deadly killer that potentially could be weaponized. Anyone older than age 50 still bears the telltale scars of the vaccination that left two pockmarks, usually on the right upper arm. Smallpox vaccination is the first vaccine and the only disease that has been eradicated.
Coronavirus, too, will take its place in the history books of vanquished viruses, and it will not be because of avoiding Corona Beer as 30% of the population has done. Multiple laboratories around the world are furiously working on an effective vaccine. Apparently, Israel is ahead of most, claiming a vaccine will be available in weeks to months. After that, we should be able to go back to our routine lives.