CoronaVirus – A Harsh Reality Check!

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By Dr. Naushad Ali, Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi, New York, TIO: Pandemic is an epidemic (a disease affecting a large number of people), which spreads over
multiple countries or continents. The coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic represents the greatest global public health crisis since the pandemic influenza outbreak of 1918.

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The causative agent of the COVID-19 pandemic is identified as a new Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrom-Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), which began in Wuhan (China) in
December 2019. Almost 80% of people recover without symptoms or low levels of harm. What does it do to the patients that cause death, if the patient does not improve fast enough?

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This information is being revealed by hospital data, research, and autopsy of the dead patients.  The normal architectures of the infected organs are damaged, and blood clots are seen in the lungs. This creates significant breathing issues and patients can die if not supported by oxygen masks and ventilators. In medical terms, the doctors will tell you, “diffuse alveolar damage, inflammatory infiltrates, and microvascular thrombosis in the lungs’.

Picture Credits: Lokmat

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This problem partly happens when your immune system, which is supposed to kill the viral infection and save you, overreacts. It causes hyper inflammation and cytokine storm that results in extensive lungs damage. In this disease, your immune system acts like an army, and police firing in the dark in all directions or blinded enough to do nothing at all.

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A most recent report suggests that this coronavirus may have acquired infectivity 1000 times better than its cousin bat virus. The doctors and scientists are trying compassionate use of existing medications to treat the patients. This field is still evolving, and there is no specific treatment except to prevent secondary infections such as pneumonia with antibiotics or slow down the overreactions of the immune system by administering steroids (e.g., Dexamethasone) or viral production using anti-virals (e.g., Remdesivir). One should remember that the current
treatment approach is in no way to cure COVID-19.

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 People who are highly prone to develop severe COVID-19 disease have also shown considerable damage in the liver, kidney, heart, and possibly brain besides swelling and blood clots in the lungs. If the infected patients have existing diseases e.g., diabetes, liver damage, kidney problem, neurological problems, weak immunity, etc., these patients rapidly develop lethal conditions. Most older people have some existing medical issues. This is one of the reasons why older people have the highest risk of death.

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Picture Credits: LA Times

The best option for fighting this pandemic is in the hands of the public. You can prevent it from spreading more and more. This option and public participation indeed imply the proverb, “prevention is better than cure.” Please take the pandemic seriously. Every research and our experience handling such viruses suggests that this virus is going to live with us for months to years. It is not easy to develop vaccines and specific treatment against new viruses for which
we have little knowledge.

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Nonetheless, rapid progress is being made. Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth, sanitize your hands frequently, and maintain social distancing. Care your elders. Before touching them, wash your hands and wear masks properly. Protect yourself and protect fellow human beings. Not ignoring mask and social distancing is a sensible approach for stopping the spread and circulation of this viral infection. Never underestimate the power of
common people for curbing the pandemic.

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Dr. Naushad Ali, The author is an Associate Professor of Research at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences in the Department of Medicine. Dr. Ali received a college education from Aligarh Muslim University (India), and did postdoctoral training at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Colorado (USA).  He works on gastrointestinal cancers with particular emphasis on liver cancer. He has researched for 25 years on RNA viruses. He is currently investigating how SARS-CoV-2, an RNA virus, causes lungs and liver damages, which ultimately leads to death.

Compiled and Curated by Maham Abbasi.

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