Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Should We Treat Covid-19 Like Influenza or Like Measles?

I have heard some authorities claiming that we simply have to accept that Covid-19 will now always be with us (in one form or another), like season influenza. The mutating virus will, if this turns out to be the case, require continued (but, this time, properly working) test, trace and isolation systems. People would also face periodic (likely to be as winter approaches, when we are forced indoors) booster doses of vaccines. Other people would prefer us to attempt to eradicate the virus, as was almost done for Measles. Measles was pretty well-controlled by the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine that was given to children. This was before the claim (in a medical journal and newspapers) that the vaccine 'caused' Autism. The parental panic that was induced, produced a marked decline in the take-up of MMR, a loss of herd immunity and a resurgence of Measles. The Autism claim was completely debunked but vaccination never completely recovered. Clearly, however, some viral infections can be largely eliminated by well-supported vaccination programmes. I too, would prefer the latter approach but I think the odds are against it. Covid-19, Seasonal Influenza and Measles are all highly contagious viral infections, spread by the coughing by infected patients. Covid-19, like influenza (but not Measles), exists as infections in other animals (e.g. mink, cats etc). These can act as reservoirs for reinfection of humans. Covid-19 is also pretty ubiquitous across the globe, so simultaneous eradication would be next to impossible, even in our own species. It is also clear that asymptomatic people (who are difficult to detect) can spread Sars-CoV-2 but, people infected with Measles, develop spots (a bit of a give-away?). Unfortunately, I don't think we will be able to completely rid ourselves of Sars-CoV-2 and all its variants.

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