Four Facts You Should Know about COVID-19

By Shlomo Maital

   (based on The Daily, a New York Times podcast, by a respected science writer).

  1. COVID-19 is not a kind of respiratory flu attacking mainly the lungs. Ordinary flu attaches to the receptors in the lung, so we cough and feel heavy chests. But COVID-19 is a vascular disease – it attacks the small blood vessels everywhere, in the lungs, in the kidneys, intestines, even in the brain. This is why there are so many and varied symptoms. True, it does severely attack the lungs – but this is because it destroys the blood vessels in the lungs that carry oxygen to the rest of the body. And because it attacks the blood vessels, it quickly spreads throughout the body, and wreaks havoc in a wide variety of ways. Perhaps this is why those on ventilators do not have a high survival rate….because it is not just the lungs that are damaged.
  2. Mutation: COVID-19 has mutated. The original Wuhan, China, strain spread, and then at some point, probably in Italy, it mutated. And spread abroad. How? It became less virulent, less fatal, but more transmissible. The novel coronavirus mutates a lot, like all viruses…but most mutations are not viable. But this mutation, in Italy, was highly successful. Why? It killed fewer people – but that meant more people lived, to pass on the virus. Which is what the virus wants. It wants to spread.   So we are dealing with a less deadly, but more virulent, virus, that spreads more easily. In part this explains why fewer are dying, but more people are being infected, in the US, Brazil and elsewhere… where many people don’t wear masks or practice social distancing. Both SARS and MERS viruses were lethal, killing 50% of more.   That’s bad news. The ‘good’ news: It meant that they both spread far far less quickly and easily than COVID-19. Same for the 1918-19 pandemic. The initial flu killed a lot of people. It stopped, paused, mutated – and then came back a year later as a new version, less lethal but far far more transmissible, in the second wave.
  3. Outdoors/indoors:   COVID-19 does not spread well outdoors. Even small amounts of wind disperse the aerosol, tiny drops, that contain tiny bits of the virus, when we breathe, shout, sing, or cough. This is in part why the massive outdoor social protests that sprang up, across the US, did not seem to directly cause massive hotspot outbreaks of virus. In contrast, the virus spreads far more easily indoors….
  4. Schools: Young children are less affected by it, though not all, and they are less dangerous in spreading the virus. Children seem to have smaller ‘loads’ of virus, and the smaller the load, the less likely it is to spread to someone else. When considering whether to open schools, this should be taken into account.