March 19th, 2020
Meet your possible new friend—chloroquine. According to a paper from a few days ago, chloroquine (hydroxychloroquine, or in another form, chloroquine phosphate) can mitigate (apparently) symptoms of Covid-19 and also be effective as a prophylactic. Showing his usual dynamic leadership, President Trump has cut through much bureaucratic red tape that would usually hold up approvals to ensure that it is released and freely available.
What about possible side effects, you may ask? Well, chloroquine has been around for decades as a drug used to counteract malaria—years of experience have shown that it is safe.
However, my main point is that with the world-wide capabilities of the Internet, work done in conjunction with the Stanford University School of Medicine can be out and available in a matter of days. Although no guarantees, encouraging results. If not a silver bullet, maybe a bronze one?
Events are moving with amazing speed. Italy and Europe are now the epicenter of the pandemic and China seems to be on the brink of recovery. Chinese TV (CGTN) has some very interesting coverage[here]. Sure, it’s state media, but so is CBC. Get your news from around the world as do I. There’s no reason to doubt Chinese figures on the case load today—anyway, it’s all the data we have.
Yesterday, my fellow scribe, Dalwhinnie, posted about Professor Briggs, a noted statistician (who I follow regularly), who wrote an article on coronavirus—the Madness Has Arrived. And let me say up front, I have no argument with his figures or analysis. Bang on, as usual. But…
No matter how irrational the madness, however, the physical effects in society are real—the stock market crash, the death porn, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, a retail and restaurant crash etc.
Further, even if the case fatality rate is not much greater than standard flu (although it does appear so far to be about ten times greater), the transmissibility of the virus is really high leading to rapid spread. And, it seems that a person is highly infectious some time before they show any symptoms; again making it much harder to control.
This is why comparisons with absolute numbers, how many people die from regular flu, are not really relevant. They are built into our systems through years of experience. This new virus has no barriers of partial immunity in the population, and, coupled with the high transmissibility, makes it a particularly nasty beast.
The now infamous R0, R-naught, the base reproduction number, the expected number of cases directly generated by one case in a population where all individuals are susceptible to infection, has to be brought down to below one. If greater than one, the epidemic will grow exponentially; if less than one, it can be contained. R-naught is not a function just of the agent (here corona virus) but a function of how easily the infection can be communicated, particularly as it seems to spread via droplets. Hence, the importance of social distancing and personal hygiene.
These effects are what can lead to a wave of patients that can overwhelm the capacity of the medical system to cope—and herein lies the great danger. The measures now being taken in the US should have been taken sooner, but at least they are happening now. President Trump seems to have got the message seriously. (As for the media—words fail me when trying to describe their appalling behavior. In this scientific age, we would be hard pressed to find a more ignorant shower of people.)
Acting rapidly can avoid the situation getting like that in Italy. And who is helping Italy out? Not the EU bureaucracy, but China. Think about that.
Check also further real information [here].