We face a unique health risk and how it affects us can depend on us.
Yesterday I observed a festive occasion on an adjacent dock. It was the introduction of a new ferry boat service connecting our city with two other communities across the bay. The slow ferry would take about as long to make the trip as the 20 mile auto trip around the bay but there would be advantages. It would be fun for people to be on the water and there would be no need for the hassle of finding a parking place at the destination. The ferry docks were each located in the small downtown of the three cities that would be connected.
This non profit venture had been in the works for more than a year and the organizers were enthusiastic and excited. This event was scheduled more than 6 months earlier, BV (an acronym which I choose for that time before the virus).
On the dock where the ferry was moored dozens of people were gathered. There were speeches including requests for donations and a bottle of champagne cracked on the bow. The craft was a 50 ft. 40 year old refurbished tour boat that was getting a new life. everybody seemed to be having a good time. What’s wrong with this picture?
As I watched from a distance, I was feeling sadness and a twinge of unease. The group was in good cheer with high fives, hugging and the kind of celebratory behavior we are all accustomed to. It was a joyful event that everybody seemed to welcome. Then the reason I felt the way I did. A few people were wearing masks and hanging back – sobering action. It said without words “these are no ordinary times.”
We are in the fourth month of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the most devastating health related event since the 1918 flu pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the 1918 flu pandemic affected one third of the world population. More than 50 million people died including 675,000 in the U.S. At the height of the pandemic 195,000 people in the U.S. died in one month!
An ominous comparison to our current plight are these words from the CDC
While the 1918 H1N1 virus has been synthesized and evaluated, the properties that made it so devastating are not well understood. With no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with influenza infections, control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly.
Sound familiar? It should. This is about where we started when the pandemic began first in China and then widely in other parts of the world with an uneven awareness of the severity and the timeliness of the reaction to the threat we faced.
In the century since 1918, advances in science and communication have altered the picture with the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the true nature of the threat was realized widespread dissemination of information about “non pharmaceutical interventions” informed the population about the best way to protect themselves. We call it mitigation defined as to reduce severity. This is an accurate term describing all that we can do. It is also not a word we use often when it comes to fighting disease. Instead we use terms like treat, eliminate, eradicate, prevent, banish and more.
Our scientists are meeting the challenge of producing a vaccine to protect against contracting the disease and they are developing prototypes in record time. But even these heroic efforts will take months at best to achieve success. There is no specific treatment for the disease.
Where does that leave us? We are still at war with an unseen enemy. Our first line of defense, all that we can do, is in our hands. This means we practice good personal hygiene especially avoiding touching our face and frequent hand washing, avoiding crowded place and when around other people practice social distancing (no touching and preferably six ft. apart), wearing a mask when indoors away from home (this could also include wearing one outside).
According to the CDC, symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
If these appear, seek medical advice. Severe difficulty breathing and chest pain require emergency medical care.
Be safe and be patient!
By Savvy Senior
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