What will happen if the coronavirus starts to spread in the USA?

nomi king 8 months 1 Answer 175 views

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  1. Originally Answered: What will happen if the coronavirus start to spread in the USA?
    I am a bit disappointed by the injection of political bias in previous responses.

    The CDC has already warned of the likelihood of community outbreaks.

    In the past several years the federal government has developed “nonpharmaceutical interventions” (NPIs) which have served to answer the question “What should be done when there are no new drugs to use in the event of a pandemic?”

    The most obvious (and simplest) is to wash your hands as frequently as necessary. Doing it with discipline matters.

    Keeping sick children out of school and sick adults out of work matters.

    Consistent practice of “cough etiquette” is helpful to avoid airborne spread to those nearby.

    The wearing of masks by the sick in order to protect the well might be helpful if proper fit is taught and practiced consistently. Otherwise, there would be no benefit to the general population.

    But most of the society-wide interventions, the actions government itself takes, are problematic. Based on studies of what US cities did in 1918, modelers concluded that “layering” several interventions would at least stretch out the length of an outbreak in a local community, easing the strain on the health care system. To succeed, even the models recognize any action has to be taken early before the virus has distributed itself widely in the community. Nonetheless, in a severe pandemic — if the virus turns virulent — these NPIs are certainly worth trying.

    Economic disruption would be significant; employees able to telecommute would have an advantage over those whose employers do not have such a capacity.

    The most controversial NPI is closing schools, partly because of the economic burden it places on working parents and society, partly because to be effective if probably has to be sustained for weeks, and partly because it’s not clear if any benefit will result if after a few days of home kids congregate in a mall or at a basketball court. The CDC will only recommend school closures if the pandemic becomes much more severe.

    Continued monitoring of the virus’ behavior is essential; a shift in the behavior of the virus needs to be recognized early. Even more aggressive moves, such as canceling sporting events (in 1919 the Stanley Cup finals were canceled) will happen only in a severe and very dangerous outbreak.

    As far as quarantine and similar NPIs, they sound good but are unlikely to work except under very narrow circumstances. Sequestering oneself or a small group will succeed, but the sequestration must be absolute. Few companies, families, or individuals can do this for the many weeks it will take for the pandemic to move on. Partial measures are next to useless — as our experience in 1918 demonstrates.

    Absolute truth and honesty on the part of public health officials and politicians is mandatory. “Managing the truth” will not do it — only “telling the truth” will enable Americans to take the measures necessary to limit contagion. Truth-telling requires ALL countries affected to do so. Totalitarian regimes (such as China) will have great difficulty (based on past experience) doing this.

    Managing fear requires the media and public officials to not stoke terror — either by exaggerating it or minimizing it.

    Taken in part from: Barry, John M. The Great Influenza: the Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History. NY, NY: Penguin Books, 2018. pp. 449–461.

    Responses should be considered general in nature, and not specific to any one person; consequently, they are not to be construed as specific medical advice and do not create a doctor/patient relationship. For more specific advice unique to your particular situation, consult a local medical professional.

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