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Knowledge will help us beat COVID-19

By: Dr. Elton Gómez, regenerative medicine specialist

The first coronavirus (COVID19) news we had, was on January 14, 2020, on a UN news site, there were reports of a new virus, which had not been identified in humans before, 20 days before that, in the middle of December 2019, 41 “atypical cases of pneumonia” had been reported in the hospitals of the city of Wuhan, in China, and a single death from this cause, which occurred on January 10. By conducting an epidemiological search, it was found that these patients had been in contact, were frequent customers, and had attended a “Huanan shellfish” market that offered live animals, of legal or illegal origin, in that city.

A few kilometers from that location, there was a molecular biology research center, which within January, was able to identify the virus that caused the disease, in less than 10 days after it emerged, identifying it as a large and heavy (200 nanometers), with a spherical capsule, covered with lipids and glycoproteins as extensions, of the coronavirus family, to which the SARS, flu and influenza viruses belong, with a moderate to a high degree of contagiousness.

By January 22, 2020, the new coronavirus had spread to several provinces with 571 confirmed cases and 17 reported deaths, on the morning of January 23, the authorities issued a notice that all public transport would be suspended, airport, subway, and railway included, which produced an exodus to more than 300,000 people who were in the city for the Chinese New Year festivities, known today as “the Wuhan exodus.” The afternoon of that same day, before the stampede of people leaving the city took over, by road, the government decided to also close the roads that exit the city, a period known as “the running of the bulls”. Then, by January 24, similar confinements are carried out in twelve other neighboring cities, imposing severe measures to curb the epidemic, such as special transport permits, special containment protocols and the construction of exclusive hospitals for the care of all these cases. Activities were not reestablished to normal until March 17, 2020.

The first contagions from people of other countries occurred precisely by travelers who were in China for business or pleasure, and who returned to their respective countries before the containment measures affected them, at that time not much was known about the incubation period of the virus, and people who were asymptomatic or with few symptoms, who traveled by plane, spread and extended the disease to their traveling companions and to people who had contact with them at airports as well as their relatives.

Soon there were cases of this disease in all European countries, the most hit nations have been Spain and Italy, in areas populated with elderly people with many chronic diseases.

A few days ago there have been cases of younger patients, and occasionally with no previous illnesses, why is this?

The COVID19 virus is an RNA virus, which makes it more mutant. Each patient who becomes infected gives the virus the opportunity to mutate, change to adapt, which has given rise to several varieties and two different “strains”: type L and type S, being one of them, type L the most aggressive, but with less dispersion, and type S less aggressive, but more contagious, these differences between the strains, cause a discrepancy between the disease behavior in different countries, for example, having much more deaths in Italy than in Germany.

What are the weaknesses of the virus that we can take advantage of in our favor?

The virus is heavy: therefore, it cannot be spread by droplets of saliva when speaking, or when distancing for more than two meters, or when sneezing at a distance of more than ten meters.

It is wrapped in a lipid layer: therefore, a detergent substance such as soap or an alcohol solution of more than 65% can destroy its lipid layer and leave it vulnerable to the environment.

Its lifetime on the surface, even in optimal conditions, does not exceed 72 hours, which is why public spaces or businesses may sporadically open during this period.

Because it is an RNA virus, the immunity it produces is longer lasting than that of other viruses, so if a patient is infected and recovers, they may be immunized for future contacts.

As it is an RNA virus with a very high mutation rate, and by decreasing the number of infections, the mutation rate is reduced, which makes it more likely that it will generate less and less aggressive strains.

The most important thing during this crisis will be to be empathetic, compassionate and have solidarity with our fellow men and women, this will make us overcome this crisis, making us better as a society.

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