Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

“Ninety nine point nine percent recover from COVID”- Right?

Despite former US president Donald Trump foolishly claiming during his debate last month with the now incoming president Joe Biden “COVID is a mild disease – 99.9% of affected patients recover completely, this Coronavirus is in fact a deadly virus that not only kills but can also incapacitate and have long term sequelae in those who manage to recover.

Trump continued to spread his message that COVID was “far less serious than the seasonal flu” – and his blithe message has been gullibly swallowed and parroted not just by his loyal supporters in the US but also by quite a few people in other countries.

Perpetrated by leaders like Trump and current Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, this idea that COVID need to be taken seriously has influenced the thinking of people all over the world. What is dangerous is that if all these folk believe this misinformation and act on the premise that COVID is just another type of simple Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, they are likely to not only to catch the infection from others but also to spread it to others.

Analysing the statistics available, the statement that the number of deaths from COVID is “just a small percentage of the number of those who test positive for the COVID virus” is true. If one looks at worldwide statistics, there have been 55.6 million “cases” and only 13.4 million deaths – which equates to a “death rate” of just 2.4%. In the USA so far, nearly 260,000 people have died from COVID while 12.3 million people have tested positive for COVID – which statistically equates to 2.11% of “COVID deaths”.

But to fully appreciate these numbers, one must know a little bit about statistics and how they are calculated.

One must be aware that the denominator used to calculate the ‘Percentage of deaths’ is NOT the number of people who enter hospital with the symptoms of COVID. The denominator used here is the number of people who have been tested in a population in whom the COVID virus has been detected in their nose or throat. Some of these folk will get symptoms (like Donald Trump, his wife, sons and many of his White House staff) while others can carry the virus but have absolutely NO SYMPTOMS. These latter folk are termed ‘asymptomatic carriers’.They do not exhibit any features of the illness although they harbour the virus in their bodies – and they can pass on this virus to all those with whom they come into close contact. They will spread the dangerous germ by coughing, sneezing and forms of physical contact like shaking hands.

While asymptomatic carriers carry the virus and do not suffer from the illness, others to whom they pass the germ are not so lucky, especially if they have conditions like diabetes, old age, cancer or any form of immune weakness which make them susceptible to the virus invading their bodies and causing adverse effects.

If the virus enters your body and you develop the disease, things can become very serious. By invading your lungs the virus can cause fever, breathlessness and pneumonia. Of those who catch COVID virus 80% experience only mild symptoms – which means 20% develop severe symptoms requiring them to be treated at great cost in hospitals, usually in intensive care units.

Doctors and nurses involved in emergency care, outpatient departments, intensive care units and respiratory wards in hospitals as well as those working in general practice clinics are all called on to deal with patients “off the street” – as are ambulance paramedics. They have all been particularly exposed and been vulnerable to contracting COVID infection themelves from the very patients they look after. Doctors and nurses have died by catching COVID from the patients they have been treating.

In the past, I used to see patients at our clinic dressed in my customary shirt and tie – but in this COVID era I have had to change to wearing surgical scrubs, mask and personal protective equipment (PPE) when I see patients. Most of us in the health professions know of class-mates and colleagues who contracted COVID and lost their lives to it – the price they have had to pay for honouring their vocation to serve others

If you are like Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro or British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (all of whom have tested positive for COVID) you have a good chance of surviving because you have access to the best treatment facilities in your country. Trump and Bolsonaro probably survived because they had a mild case of the disease (remember the 80%) while Johnson had a serious case of COVID and only survived because he was managed in the ICU at one of his country’s top facilities, St. Thomas’ Hospital.

If any of us ordinary folk gets the COVID infection requiring hospital treatment, we (unlike the American president and the British prime minister) won’t be treated in hospitals like London’s St Thomas’ or Washington’s Walter Reed Army Hospital – nor will we have access to expensive and still unproven drugs like Remdesivir.

Deaths from COVID are not limited to just the old and those with pre-existing health condition – many young people who were previously healthy have also succumbed to COVID. Moreover, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that many of those who ‘recover’ from COVID are known to suffer prolonged illness and persistent symptoms – even in young adults and persons with no underlying medical conditions who were not hospitalized.

 If any of us “ordinary citizens” get COVID disease, we will have a very high chance of dying. This is why we should continue to wear masks, keep as socially distanced as possible and continue to be vigilant.

If we “catch the Corona”, our chances of surviving will certainly be much less than ninety nine percent!



This entry was posted on November 29, 2020 by in covid, Health Matters, Opinion and tagged , .

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