China Warned Of Mysterious Virus 6 Months Ago, Where The World Is At Now?

August 15, 2020

It’s been six months since China first reported a mysterious set of pneumonia cases in Wuhan.

The culprit has been dubbed “SARS-CoV-2,” a new virus that has jumped from an as-yet-unknown animal to humans, spreading like wildfire around the globe. The virus has now reached every continent except Antarctica, devastating remote indigenous populations in the Amazon and spreading in African countries already devastated by other pathogens.

In the meantime, SARS-CoV-2 has infected at least 10.4 million people worldwide and killed more than half a million people. As the virus spread, health care workers scrambled to purchase personal protective equipment, sick patients overcrowded hospitals, and society’s vulnerabilities were exposed.

Here’s our review of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, all we’ve learned in the meantime, and what we can expect in the next six months.

One by one, countries shut down their economies and societies, a staggering number of people lost their jobs, and many faced the mental health effects of loneliness and isolation. Masks have taken their place next to mobile phones, keys and wallets as objects to keep out of the house; staying at home has become heroic; and humans have learned the terms ‘social distance’ and ‘flattening curve’.

Science works overtime.
The virus has sparked an unprecedented global effort to find a vaccine and treatment.

In the past six months, “there have been tremendous scientific advances, not the least of which was the isolation and sequencing of the virus within 12 days of reporting the outbreak to China’s CDC, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco. This means that within a few days, scientists figured out that the virus is made up of RNA and its sequence is made up of 29,900 letters or bases, all arranged like a string of beads.

By February, the scientists figured out the structure of the “spiking protein” that the virus uses to invade human cells.” The “spiking protein” unlocks a receptor or “doorway” into the cell called ACE2. Because this receptor is found in many different types of cells in our bodies, from the lungs to the heart, the virus can have a profound effect on the body.

We’ve learned a lot about how the virus behaves clinically (the list of symptoms it causes – from cough and fever to nausea to loss of taste and smell – is long and vague) and its epidemiology and how it spreads, Rutherford told Live Science.

And we’ve learned at least some of what we can do to fight the virus. We’ve learned a lot about non-pharmaceutical interventions” to prevent transmission, including the importance of wearing masks and social distancing to prevent transmission, he said.

The virus doesn’t wait for preparation
Each country has its own response. Some, such as the city of Wuhan in China, have imposed strict blockades that prohibit most people from leaving their homes. Others, such as Sweden, have imposed almost no restrictions on society.

Some countries, like New Zealand, managed to eradicate the virus through early action, consistent messaging and other effective tactics – at least in this round. Others, such as the United States, had a confused response, began with a nonchalant attitude, and have begun to see the virus recover as a cobbled-together country reopened without a clear plan for how to test, track and quarantine the situation…. “In many ways, the Chinese took a bullet for us and gave us a few more months to prepare,” says Rutherford.” The Europeans did okay, [the U.S.] did poorly.”

When the virus arrived in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a critical mistake by choosing to conduct its own tests in-house rather than relying on kits already developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Laboratories across the country were then unable to conduct their own tests because the CDC’s kit used a faulty reagent that didn’t produce reliable results. And there were “a lot of unnecessary testing rules,” Rutherford told Live Science. for example, one initial guideline required that anyone being tested have some connection to Wuhan, China.” We missed a couple of early clusters,” he added. The virus “got out of control in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, most of which stemmed from a lack of leadership.”

“We’ve been slow to call it a pandemic, we’ve been slow to acknowledge its magnitude, we’ve been slow to test large numbers of people,” said Dr. Eric Cioe-Pe?a, an emergency room physician and director of global health at Northwell Health in New York. In places like South Korea, they’ve seen coronavirus-like outbreaks before and had a “good response,” he said.” But for every country that has a good response, there are 10 that are lagging behind,” he told Live Science.

“The idea that New York City will shut down in February is unheard of,” Cioe-Pe?a said.” In order to respond effectively to the virus, we have to bridge a cognitive dissonance.”

New York had its first reported case in early March, he said, but the virus had undoubtedly infected people before then. We now know that there were at least 84 introductions of the virus, sowing a catastrophic outbreak, according to a study in the May 29 issue of the journal Science.

Months of chaos, heartbreak and loss followed, with nearly 22,000 people dying from COVID-19 in the city alone, but after imposing a lockdown, radically stepped-up testing and contact tracing, the state “went from having the highest infection rate in the world to the lowest in the country,” he said.” It’s a huge effort, and “going forward, if a second surge hits the state, New York will be in a better position to fight it,” he told Live Science.

Vaccines and drugs
What’s in store for the next six months?Cioe-Pe?a said, “Ideally, we will soon have the first of a limited number of coronavirus vaccines available to healthcare workers and the public.” We haven’t seen any red [flags] yet, and that may not be a reality.”

At the beginning of the outbreak in the U.S., Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it could take 12 to 18 months to have a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine – which is faster than any vaccine could be developed.

According to the WHO, 17 vaccines are currently in clinical trials.Moderna’s experimental vaccine uses messenger RNA to stimulate the body’s immune response to the coronavirus. According to a previous Live Science report, the technology has not been used in any of the approved vaccines so far, and phase 3 trials are expected to begin in July with hundreds to thousands of people. According to another Live Science report, researchers at the University of Oxford in the U.K. are testing another vaccine made from a weakened cold virus combined with a gene from a coronavirus, and hope to have the first doses ready by the fall.

A handful of treatments for COVID-19 are already in use, though none are blockbusters.

“I had hoped we would have had some better drugs by now,” Rutherford said. Also according to Live Science, Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir is currently the only drug authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, after a previous clinical trial found that it significantly shortened the time to recovery.

Another large trial in the U.K. found that a simple and inexpensive steroid, dexamethasone, reduced mortality in patients on oxygen or ventilators.

“In the next six months, we may get better treatments,” including some that could be repurposed to fight so-called “cytokine storms,” or deadly hurricanes of cells that the immune system sometimes unleashes in a chaotic response to viruses, Rutherford said. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the WHO, nearly 1,600 studies are now being conducted worldwide on coronaviruses, with a handful of them testing potential vaccines in humans.

‘We all want it to be over’.
The virus has not disappeared on its own with the warm summer weather, as some people dreamed it would. The United States is now reporting 40,000 new cases a day – more than at any time during the entire pandemic.

And until we get a vaccine, we won’t be able to get back to normal life.” You have to realize that we’re in it for the long haul, and this is not the time for short term attention span drama,” said Rutherford.

The world is bored and fatigued by isolation, and many, usually young people, have stopped socially alienating themselves. As a result, in countries including Israel, Portugal, and the United States, young people account for a larger proportion of new COVID-19 cases than they did at the beginning of the epidemic, according to The Guardian. But “the virus doesn’t get bored, the virus doesn’t watch TV, the virus doesn’t listen to what people are saying, all it wants to do is reproduce,” says Rutherford.” And it’s just relentless.”

Young people are not immune to the virus. At first, scientists thought that serious illness was primarily a problem for the elderly and those with underlying illnesses. But now we know that the virus is deadly even in young people and children, such as children who develop a mysterious inflammation after contracting the virus.” It doesn’t have a population that it doesn’t kill, it just kills certain populations less frequently than others.” Cioe-Pe?a said.

“We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives.” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said yesterday (June 29).” But the harsh reality is. It’s not even over yet. While some progress has been made in many countries, globally the epidemic is actually accelerating.”

The virus has slowed down in Europe, Asia and the northeastern U.S., but is accelerating in the southwest and South America, where Brazil is seeing record numbers every day.

In February, experts told Live Science that the pandemic has four possible endpoints. We’ll get the virus under control, it will disappear naturally by reducing its infectivity, we’ll find a vaccine, or the virus will linger indefinitely and take the place of seasonal flu.

We don’t have it under control yet, and at this point it doesn’t look like it’s going away, which leaves us with two options: live with the virus forever, or find a vaccine.