What’s changed since May

The virus almost disappeared during the hot summer months. Now as we move into winter, Covid19 – like all respiratory viruses is infecting more and more people.

Is the virus less dangerous to us than before the lockdown?

  • Social distancing, face masks and better hygiene can slow down the spread of the virus because these measures may reduce the viral load or the amount of virus particles we are exposed to.
  • Doctors have have developed new and better strategies to treat patients and there are now drugs that can treat the most unwell
  • The most vulnerable people may have already succumbed, leaving the survivors better able to cope with the virus.

Many vaccines will be developed. But we can’t put our lives on hold until they are freely available. Making vaccines is difficult and expensive, they are very hard to mass-produce and not 100% effective. In the history of modern science smallpox is the only virus that has been eradicated by vaccine, Edward Jenner introduced his vaccine in 1796. The last UK smallpox patient died 182 years later in 1978.

Between January and August 2020 it is estimated that 48,000* people died from or with Covid19. The population of England and Wales is about 60 million. So 0.008% of the population died with the virus. In an average year about 1% or 600,000 people die. More than 1 each minute or 1600 every day.

Lets illustrate this by using the Crystal Palace stadium as an example: The capacity of Selhurst Park is 25,486. In any given year 255 fans might die of all causes but in statistical terms so far this year only 2 of them will have died with Covid19. I hope this gives you some perspective on the present situation. I’ll leave it up to you to make the Palace jokes!

Is Corona virus like the flu?

Corona is not the flu but they have much in common. Influenza mutates freely so the vaccine is always an educated guess that works better some years than others. Every year hundreds of thousands of us get the flu and even with take up of the vaccine, on average 17,000 die. Of those that do die the vast majority die with flu, because they are already weakened, frail and elderly.

Sometimes young and outwardly healthy people do die from the flu usually because they develop pneumonia. How many times have you heard people say they had “a touch of flu” most of us are not scared of it because it is so familiar, after all we call it ‘The Flu” not many diseases have become a noun! But there is no getting away from the fact that influenza is a very dangerous disease. Exposure to flu gives you partial protection to later mutations because it is not a new virus and your immune system has a head start.

There has been much debate as to whether being infected with covid will protect you from subsequent infection. It is highly likely that if you have been exposed to Covid19 whether you had symptoms or not you will be immune to this version and you may have some protection to further outbreaks.

Because Covid19 is a novel virus it may behave unpredictably so we will have to remain on our guard and maintain hand washing and sensible social distancing when it returns(probably coinciding with the flu season)

Viruses – It’s their world, we just live in it!

Viruses existed long before the dawn of humans and will survive long after we’ve gone. We have developed a means of surviving and thriving in their world. It’s called the immune system and it’s founded on exposure to nasties. The best way to optimise a healthy immune system is by socialising with other people.

If you have a weak immune system you need to self isolate, this has always been true, if you are in a vulnerable group you are at higher risk. Lockdown keeps poorly people well but may well make healthy people poorly! All other pandemics through history have been fought by quarantining the vulnerable. This is the first time we have locked up the healthy.

Immune systems require socialisation in order to build strength and be effective. Isolation, stress and lack of sunlight and fresh air will have weakened even a healthy immune system. The lockdown is starting to ease so if you are well get out as much as possible, get some sun and exercise, everyone should take vitamins D, C and Zinc, these are all known to boost the immune system. Contact with viruses is inevitable and it is your immune system that will protect you from them. Begin the training now, prepare it, feed it and it will be ready for you. 

Covid 19 and older people

Statistics will tell you that being over 70, or even over 50 increase your risks of becoming gravely ill with Covid19. There are natural changes in your body that make any illness harder to shake as you age, plus the older you are, the more likely it becomes that you will begin to suffer from health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.

But being old does not mean you are unhealthy, it just means that you are more likely to be unhealthy. This is both the blessing and the curse of statistics, they show trends in a population, but statistics aren’t personal! Older patients without any chronic illnesses who are a heathy weight should remain cautious but not frightened. The vast majority will have quite mild symptoms and recover fully from Covid19.

I am more concerned about patients who are young and unhealthy than those who are old and well.