Today in interesting coronavirus reading

1) I really would prefer less hand-shaking in my life and more fist-bumping (I know DJC is with me):

Handshaking spreads germs and is a bad method of greeting. I prefer an elegant namaste but that is slightly hard to coordinate on when the other person sticks out their hand. The fist bump is a little smoother and has a greater chance of being adopted.

A study by Mela and Whitsworth in the American Journal of Infection Control found that fist bumps transferred one-quarter as much bacteria as a moderate handshake and even less compared to a strong handshake. Fist bumps are better because of lower contact times and lower contact area.

2) Good general Q&A in Slate:

Am I likely to get the new coronavirus?

Researchers are still figuring that out. One epidemiologist estimated that 40–70 percent of people will get the disease, according to a piece in the Atlantic helpfully titled “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus.” At Stat, reporter Sharon Begley lays out two scenarios based on interviews with epidemiologists if the virus isn’t contained: In one, COVID-19 becomes one of the mundane coronaviruses that’s always floating around in the world (there are currently four; they cause about a fourth of all colds). In another, it’s less mundane and more like the flu, which causes a lot of havoc every year.

So I am going to die of coronavirus?

No, almost certainly not! The death rate outside of Wuhan, China, is 0.7 percent, according to the WHO. In Wuhan, where hospitals are overwhelmed, it’s 2–4 percent. Those numbers might be high because they don’t account for people who experienced the virus without any major symptoms and weren’t screened for it, essentially artificially reducing the denominator. The virus is also mostly a concern for older people, and people who are otherwise immunocompromised; it damages the lungs, potentially leading to pneumonia and in severe cases, organ failure. Typically, severe symptoms from viruses are also a concern for babies, but so far, the symptoms in babies have been mild.

Wait, then why did the coronavirus kill a 29-year-old doctor?

Because he was a doctor. “It’s a dosage thing,” explains Anna Yeung-Cheung, a virologist at Manhattanville College. Health care workers are exposed to far more people, often pretty sick people, than the average person, and therefore stand to come in contact with higher levels of the virus. A lot of virus can still overwhelm a healthy immune system.

3) This is so damn true, “To Prevent Next Coronavirus, Stop the Wildlife Trade, Conservationists Say: Conservationists see a persistent threat of epidemics so long as tens of millions of animals are traded in Southeast Asia.”Just asking for it with zoonotic diseases until this changes.

4) I found this discussion of why the disease seems to be much more deadly for men particularly fascinating:

The coronavirus that originated in China has spread fear and anxiety around the world. But while the novel virus has largely spared one vulnerable group — children — it appears to pose a particular threat to middle-aged and older adults, particularly men.

This week, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention published the largest analysis of coronavirus cases to date. Although men and women have been infected in roughly equal numbers, researchers found, the death rate among men was 2.8 percent, compared with 1.7 percent among women.

The figures were drawn from patient medical records, and the sample may not fully reflect the scope of the outbreak. But the disparity has been seen in the past…

When it comes to mounting an immune response against infections, men are the weaker sex.

“This is a pattern we’ve seen with many viral infections of the respiratory tract — men can have worse outcomes,” said Sabra Klein, a scientist who studies sex differences in viral infections and vaccination responses at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“We’ve seen this with other viruses. Women fight them off better,” she added.

Women also produce stronger immune responses after vaccinations, and have enhanced memory immune responses, which protect adults from pathogens they were exposed to as children.

“There’s something about the immune system in females that is more exuberant,” said Dr. Janine Clayton, director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health.

But there’s a high price, she added: Women are far more susceptible to autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, in which the immune system shifts into overdrive and attacks the body’s own organs and tissues.

Nearly 80 percent of those with autoimmune diseases are women, Dr. Clayton noted. [emphases mine]

The reasons women have stronger immune responses aren’t entirely clear, and the research is still at an early stage, experts caution.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

2 Responses to Today in interesting coronavirus reading

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