The new coronavirus is unknown in many respects. In addition to not having a dedicated vaccine for Sars-CoV-2, it is not known, as yet, whether a person who has been infected and recovered acquires immunity – nor for how long the immunity could last. In addition, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, leader of the World Health Organization, warns: covid-19 is 10 times more deadly than H1N1.
The information released takes into account that the number of cases in the world is rapidly approaching 2 million, including more than 119,000 deaths resulting from the infection. “In some countries, the number doubles in three or four days. One of the main aspects of the disease is that it accelerates very fast and decelerates much more slowly”.
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In 2009, H1N1, much compared to covid-19, infected more than 60 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, killing about 12,500 people in one year in the country. In the current pandemic, there, more than 570 thousand people have been diagnosed with coronavirus infection – practically twice as many deaths in a much shorter period of time (reaching a total of 22 thousand fatal victims on 12/04).
Now, the challenge is to discover the fate of the more than 440 thousand individuals who have overcome the disease in the world. Are they really protected and able to gradually resume normal activities? Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergency programs, is cautious: “It is expected that a full immune response will develop, with detectable antibodies over a period of time, but we still don’t know what that period of time would be. It’s very hard to say when it comes to the new coronavirus.”
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It is worth remembering that, as in the case of a common flu, virus mutations can occur and new vaccines would have to be developed. Unfortunately, there is not even an initial protection against this contagion. Isolation, for now, is the only way to break the contamination curve and prevent health systems from collapsing from overburdening patients.
Research and Prevention
According to Maria Van Kerkhove, technical leader in the emerging diseases sector responsible for covid-19, a preliminary study of antibodies present in the blood plasma of 175 patients who recovered from the infection in China was carried out. The results, not yet analyzed by other specialists, were very varied.
“For now, we don’t have a complete picture of how immunity works,” he points out. “We cannot give a conclusive answer.” This is because different levels were detected in different patients. Some of them, for example, showed a strong antibody development response. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean anything about immunity per se – a different matter. Still, there were patients who did not respond at all.
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Given the complexity of the new coronavirus, the hypothesis that someone who has already recovered may indeed be infected again is not discarded. Furthermore, if the condition does not fully overcome and the virus remains in the body, it is possible that the infection will strike again.
Considering that contaminations will continue to occur, it is important, according to Tedros, to maintain isolation. Thus, the number of simultaneous cases will be smaller, allowing governments and responsible health entities to prepare to serve the entire population and thus avoid all possible deaths, resulting from covid-19 or random causes due to the lack of beds and specialized medical care.
“The loosening of isolation should only occur if the most adequate public health measures are in place, including the constant improvement in tracking the disease”, he advises. Yesterday, in Brazil, the Ministry of Health confirmed 23,430 cases and 1,328 deaths.
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