Disclaimer: The things I am about to share in this article are for the sake of informing the general public. I think amid this pandemic we all have to remain optimistic and get through this together. My thoughts go out to every victim who is suffering as a result of this pandemic, and I do hope that a vaccine can be quickly procured to solve this global crisis.
Although it has to be made clear that the fastest a vaccine can be produced is within a year. So our best hope to solve this crisis is to follow the rules of social distancing and not to go out searching for an infection.
Let me start this article with a quote:
“This, too, shall pass.”
There is already plenty of information out there on how we can protect ourselves during this pandemic. I will touch on those preventive measures briefly and provide helpful links if you want to study further. There is a lot of false information out there on the internet. So stay safe, don’t blindly trust everything you read online and only trust the information from credible sources such as WHO and the CDC :
In this article, I will be discussing the following topic
- What is COVID 19 and the different ways we can protect ourselves
- Status of Nepal and things we can do
- Exponential growth and what does it mean for Nepal
- The idea behind social distancing and what does it means to flatten the curve
- How this pandemic can be a wakeup call to the current society
What is COVID-19? and the different ways we can protect ourselves
Viruses are continually looking for new hosts to infect. Most of them fail due to the genetic dissimilarity between the different hosts, and that is why viruses like the coronavirus are so rare. But viruses can also replicate rapidly by the millions and can quickly develop a random mutation. These mutations under the best-case scenario will kill the virus or make it so that it can cause no harm. But a random mutation may also make the virus capable enough to infect a host (humans or animals).
COVID-19 is a new strain of the coronavirus. It is said to have first originated in Wuhan Province of China and since then has become a global pandemic spreading to about 182 countries to date (until March 19, 2020). Yes, there are other types of coronaviruses. Namely, MERS and SARS which have caused some real problems in the past, and we were lucky that they did not become a global pandemic like this one. Even though the mortality rate of COVID-19 is only about 2%, which is much lower than that of MERS or SARS, it has already managed to kill more than ten times as many people (until March 19, 2020). The main reason behind this has been the global spread of this virus.
The most common symptoms are Fever, Cough, and Shortness of breath. In some patients – particularly the elderly and others with other chronic health conditions – these symptoms can develop into pneumonia, with chest tightness, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
It seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. After a week, it can lead to shortness of breath, with about 20% of patients requiring hospital treatment while 80% of the cases are mild and can recover at home.
The various ways by which we can protect ourselves and others are :
- Don’t be complacent about this virus. Take it seriously and follow the ideas of social distancing for the foreseeable future. Social distancing is the best preventative measure we have to help us defeat this pandemic, given that a vaccine is not going to come anytime soon.
- Don’t be an idiot and hoard masks and Food. Hoarding creates more panic than is needed and takes supplies away from health professionals and people who are showing symptoms.
- Consistently wash your hands for at least 20 secs with soap. And try not to touch your face. Try to Disinfect the surfaces that are frequently touched. A new analysis found that the virus can remain viable in the air for up to 3 hours, on copper for up to 4 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel up to 72 hours.
- Don’t be a racist. That does not help anyone. You will not get the virus by eating Chinese Food or by getting a Chinese package.
Status of Nepal and things we can do
We are currently seeing that the number of medical cases due to coronavirus is rapidly increasing in many countries. Hence it is safe to say that the spread of the virus in Nepal is almost inevitable. As of writing this article, there has only been “one” reported case here in Nepal with no fatality. That number should be taken with a grain of salt because there is a good chance that 1000’s of cases are lurking in the background. From a medical standpoint, we are in a terrible state, and this is because our country is ill-equipped even to test the existence of the virus. WHO has already enlisted Nepal in a high-risk zone for the coronavirus outbreak. If we use our common sense, it is safe to say that the outbreak in Nepal is not the question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’
A strong rumor that is going around
There are rumors that summer (Due to the increase in temperature) might help to slow down the spread of the virus. But until now, there is nothing concrete to support that theory. Hence information like these cannot be trusted without factual analysis. Although if this theory is assumed to be accurate, the virus could die out, or it could resurface in the cold by becoming an even deadlier strain. Therefore we need to take the right preventative measures to protect ourselves.
Condition of our health care system
It can be easily estimated that if this outbreak occurs, the Nepalese health care system will be overwhelmed. People who are showing symptoms may be unable to find proper medical care. And because of this, many who could be treated and saved may suffer and die.
The major stakeholders during this outbreak will be the elderly, probably with a preexisting condition. Recently the government did take some action towards dealing with this pandemic. But an even more significant effort other than closing everything down is needed if we stand any chance of escaping this cluster fuck that is about to come our way.
The necessary steps that must be taken to protect people are:
- management of hospital beds and ventilators
- virus testing kits should be provided at different locations, especially in various checkpoints that go in and out of the country
- the government should also look towards increasing the number of ventilators for the sick.
Other things like Stimulating the economy without causing rapid inflation, managing food sources for the unemployed and poor must also be taken into consideration. This virus at the moment is not strong enough to kill a lot of people on its own. But the panic it creates definitely will.
Things we can do to help
The thing you can do to help during this time is to be a decent and responsible human being. Wear a mask when you are in public. Do not act stupid and stock up on a year’s worth of food supplies. I get that you might be sacred, but remember that others desperately want those supplies too. It is an asshole move to be selfish, especially during this time. The idea is to act like a normal human being and not act as if this is a zombie outbreak. Use preventative measures and follow the rules of social distancing. (Discussed below).
Exponential growth and what does it mean for Nepal
Many are choosing the route of superstition and ego to explain why the virus has not spread in Nepal. As I said earlier, our country lacks the resources even to start testing people for this virus. And let’s say that is not the case. That until now, there is no one infected with the virus. Even then, we should not be complacent. The reason is exponential growth and what we are seeing in countries like the US, Italy, Iran, and others. The cases there are skyrocketing. To understand why that has been the case, let’s understand what exponential growth is.
The virus has an incubation period of about 12-14 days, which means that you may right now carry the virus and not even realize that you are infected. Because of this, things can stay normal for a very long time until it isn’t. One day you may find out that a few people got sick. And just within a day or two, like magic, everyone around you gets sick. Exponential growth is why governmental response must be rapid, especially in the early stage, when the number of cases is low. This must be done to prevent an outbreak. You might think closing down public gatherings, stadiums, schools, festivals, and other social events are an overreaction but know that it is necessary. This is because we may not notice an outbreak until its too late.
Let us understand what exponential growth actually is. Let’s say a frog can reproduce once a day for the next 20 days. On day one, there will be one frog on day two frogs. On day three, there will be four frogs, and so on. In just 14 days, you will have about 16 thousand frogs in the pond. By the 20th day, with the same rate of increment, you will have about 10 lakh frogs in the lake. And the thing you have to realize is that on the 19th day there will only be about 5 lakh frogs in the pond. The number of frogs will double from the 19th to the 20th day. This is how viruses spread. Starting from mid-February, we have seen about 1.1-1.4 times the cases every day around the world (i.e., A frog is reproducing 1.4 babies a day). This means that every day the total number of cases is growing by the multiple of 1.1-1.4. This can make the cases add up very quickly, as you saw with the frog example. An expert wrote in an Atlantic Article and predicted that this virus would infect about 40-70% of people around the world within a year. This is because a potential vaccine is a year into the future and will probably take longer. This is why rapid responses are needed at a very early stage to help prevent an outbreak.
So just because there has only been one “reported” case in Nepal does not mean we should be complacent about the potential harm this virus can bring socially, economically, and physically.
The idea behind social distancing and what does it means to flatten the curve
Social distancing simply means to stay away from close human contact. We do this to make sure that new people are not infected by the virus as frequently and that we do not spread the infection to others in case we have it ourselves. Why is this necessary? This is necessary so that the number of infected cases does not overwhelm the health care system within a nation. No matter what we do, there are a limited number of beds and medical resources available.
Let’s look at the outbreak curve to understand what it represents. How bad will the impact of the virus be is dependent entirely on the rate of infection over a period of time? A rapid global pandemic means a lot of people get sick in a very short amount of time, as shown by the sharp cliff in the diagram. A slower moving pandemic looks a lot flatter. In this scenario, the rate at which cases increase is lowered and spread out over a long period (Flattening the curve).
Even though the total number of people infected in both curves may be the same, a slower spread means that the healthcare system will have resources to treat the ones who are sick. The dotted line shows the capacity of the health care system of a nation, which includes things such as the number of beds, doctors, respirators, and other medical equipment.
An explosion in the number of cases will mean that only a few people will get access to health care. And a decision would have to be made as to who gets the treatment and who does not. This can result in a lot of fear, anger, and hate. However, if we manage to flatten the curve by socially distancing ourselves. i.e., to say that if we can slow the rate of infection over a more extended period so that it does not overwhelm the system, everyone who is infected gets treated. Whereas, in the first scenario, if there is a rapid growth of the infection, then many will die. So given that a vaccine will take some time to be procured, this is what we may have to live with for the foreseeable future (which could be weeks or months).
So be a responsible human. If you are young, you might be arrogant enough to think that you are safe. But it’s not about you—it about you giving the infection to your parents or grandparents. Don’t go out in groups. Don’t meet people unless and until it is absolutely necessary. We all have to take responsibility in order to help each other during this difficult time. Social distancing is the best preventative measure we have at the moment.
Sources and Links