Immediate Action Makes All the Difference With Coronavirus

An infectious disease epidemiologist on why we need to act now

Photo: CDC/Unsplash

It’s not enough to test those returning from an “affected area.” We have to realize that the virus is already present and we ourselves are an “affected area.”

The case numbers in the United States and several countries in Europe are developing and doubling at the same rate as we’ve seen in Italy and Wuhan. There is every reason to expect very serious outbreaks in Spain, France, Germany, the U.S., and the U.K. in the coming weeks — and others to follow.

Yes, wash your hands like your life or someone else’s depends on it — but that’s not enough.

The article also looked at what happened in Guangzhou, the neighboring province of Wuhan. By the time SARS-CoV-2 made its way to Guangzhou, China had learned its lesson from Wuhan and had imposed strict social distancing measures as well as contact tracing and quarantine protocols across Chinese cities. At that time, Guangzhou had only seven confirmed cases. The work from Harvard University shows that if the United States can impose these types of measures early, it will be able to comfortably handle its epidemic (Figure 1, bottom right). Plainly stated, far fewer lives will be lost.

Figure 1. Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Figure 2. Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

Helen Jenkins is an Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the epidemiology of infectious diseases.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store