Immediate Action Makes All the Difference With Coronavirus
An infectious disease epidemiologist on why we need to act now
In the West, we watched the Covid-19 outbreak develop in Wuhan as though it were happening on another planet. But this disease moves fast. Italy had just 21 cases on February 21, and now the entire country is on lockdown. Deaths in Italy increased by 60% in the last two days from 631 to 1,016, and overwhelmed Italian doctors are now faced with having to choose which patients to treat with breathing equipment and who should be left to die.
There’s no reason to think that the spread of Covid-19 will be any different in the U.S., the U.K., France, or Spain than it is in Wuhan or Lombardy. That’s why we and our governments in these and other nations must take action now.
As an infectious disease epidemiologist, I know that outbreaks follow a very predictable pattern. There is a short window in the early stages during which there is hope of containment but, once the disease takes hold, case numbers increase exponentially.
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.
Wuhan was caught unawares, and Italy was unlucky to have the first big outbreak in Europe, although it is unclear why. The United States and European countries must learn from this very quickly. We need to stop assuming we are different and start introducing measures to protect our communities.
How? The countries not yet seriously affected must start testing seriously. 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…