By Boakai Boley ([email protected])
The Corona Virus Disease or COVID 19 has ripped the world apart in just 4 months. Global health is in free-fall, robust health infrastructures in wealthy and powerful nations buckled and capitulated as Health professionals scramble to understand the virus, its morphology, and pathogenesis.
I am constrained to voice an opinion because of barrage of misinformation and disinformation that have the proclivity to influence our attitude as a people especially now that attitudes and behaviors have proven to drive or influence the numbers. It’s a simple opinion honestly intended to instigate and or redirect the conversation and punditry based on facts, science and data. Not politics, sentiments, and emotions.
Let’s start with elementary microbiology review. A pathogen is an organism that causes disease. There are different types of pathogens (i.e. viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites) But we’ll emphasize on the pathogenic agent of COVID-19, Virus! Viruses are unique. They are smaller, complicated and, based on their genetic makeup elude easy detection and mimic healthy cells.
Scientist, Infectious Disease Specialists, Epidemiologists and many health scholars are still trying to fully understand nature of this disease. While more research is needed and some of the basic facts continue to evolve, few basic principles and characteristic of this pandemic have been coined.
The virus has shown airborne spread characteristics. It is easily spread also by droplets from a symptomatic as well as asymptomatic carriers. It survives on surfaces for days. Median global fatality rate is between 4 to 6%. The elderly, those with preexisting conditions, have poorer outcomes. The staggering fatalities among African Americans in recent weeks further highlight decades of systemic health disparities. To accept these facts, it must first be settled that COVID-19 is not a scam. Unfortunately, some people are still in denial that this is not real.
COVID-19 is not a scam. The public needs to be aware that this disease is real and not some ploy by counties and governments to extort money. The US has over 45,000 recorded deaths, Italy over 24,648, Spain 21,282, England 17,337, France 20,796. No reasonable personable person would believe that these countries are manufacturing these painful numbers to get IMF support. Liberia isn’t. That theory is farfetched and ludicrous.
Liberian Health authorities begun the fight long before it reached our shores. Because of the nature of the disease, registering an index case was inevitable. It was a matter of when. For decades, epidemiologists have dreaded the worst pandemic as being an airborne viral disease. While responding and containing the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) of 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MARS) 2012, there was a concern that a global pandemic would ravage the world. Understandably, this list sentence could start a contentious debate: Disease etiology from Co-mingling of animal to human vectors versus the conspiratorial geopolitical interplay. Let’s save that for another day. Bottomline, the world had it coming. Unfortunately, its fury and ferocity caught us pants down. COVID 19 was inevitable and coming to Liberia was just a matter of time. The few counties that have not confirmed a case are either isolated islands or secluded territories with limited global human traffic. They are: Comoros, Kiribati, Lesotho, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, North Korea, Palau Samoa, Sao Tomé and Principe, Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
When the “war” reached our shores, Plan B was activated (supportive care, isolation, contact tracing). Just as every country is affected differently, so are the responses. While universal containment protocols are effective guidance, tailing them to fit the Country context (economy, health infrastructure, human resources) is key. Liberian and health authorities have and continue to do exceedingly well and Public and international support are pivotal.
The global conversation to fight the scourge is TESTING! Testing, testing, testing. We need more testing to find and isolate cases. That means the more we test, the more the number of confirmed cases skyrocket. The alarm concerns about the increasing positive cases is normal and understandable. As we aggressively test, expect those numbers to increase. It will keep climbing until the cases peak, then plateau and then start to decrease. That is the nature of this pandemic. We are in a war of a lifetime. Some people are positive, yet asymptomatic; without rigorous testing they will keep infecting the public. Today we have 101 confirmed cases, 8 deaths, 20 recoveries and 73 active cases. The earlier treatment is sought, the more favorable the outcome.
The COVID 19 is an invisible enemy. It threatens the existence of mankind. It is changing norms as we know it. The global fear and panic are just a natural response. Rising numbers of death, scarcity for ventilators, scramble for essential supplies, with no vaccine or therapeutic treatment for a rapidly spreading disease is worrisome. Great Britain and Germany have begun human trials for a potential vaccine. This is another contentious issue. Vaccines are monumental public health accomplishments. They have been responsible for many public health successes around the world. They include the campaign to eradicate measles, smallpox, polio, etc. But they sometimes have ethical controversies. While behavioral modification (social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing) might help to slow that spread, only a successful antiretroviral therapy and or vaccine that will end this nightmare. In the wake of brewing conspiracy theory with racist and unethical comments coming from two French doctors suggesting a potential vaccine trial in Africa, the creeping public skepticism about accepting a vaccine is understandable. We need a therapeutic intervention to prevent and treat this disease. Of course, these interventions must pass the ethical litmus test and must be available for all irrespective of social economic status.
We build faith through socialization. There has been tremendous support from the interfaith community even before our index case. Crowd mitigation is a proven way to slow the spread. In fact, in South Korea, the first country to battle the highest number if COVID 19 cases outside China, traced the rapid spread to a church. Freedom of religion is an inalienable right, unfortunately, the nature of this contagion puts congregants at greater risk. The defiant zealots who feel attacked by authority’s decision to suspend crowded church services should reread the Holy Book. In Isaiah 26, the people of God are called to hide in their homes until a “fury” has passed, “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by” (Isaiah 26:20).
In the end, your faith in God is important, especially in trying times. Have faith, keep the faith. Faith in the resilience and tenacity of humanity, faith in the Government and Health officials who are scrambling to get a handle on this pestilence. We have a sacred obligation to protect you and not proxies to some grand conspiracy. And perhaps, most importantly, have faith you; for in times like these, you need you the most! With that faith, even if as small as a mustard seed, we can move mountains for God for Country.