Worth reading: Our history is a battle against the microbes. We lost terribly before science, public health, and vaccines

Welcome perspective from Max Roser of the excellent ourworldindata.org, a website I consider essential reading for everyone. The public health impact of vaccines simply cannot be overstated (as shown below). While infectious diseases like tuberculosis continue to claim lives, the death tolls of the past were almost unimaginable. Thanks to vaccination, countless lives have been…

COVID-19: Could exposure to ‘common cold’ coronaviruses offer some protection against SARS-CoV-2?

Although not all that surprising in hindsight, the results of a paper recently published in Cell are nevertheless stunning: 40-60% of a group of individuals not exposed to SARS-CoV-2 were found to have T helper cells that were reactive to SARS-CoV-2. The article summary: “Understanding adaptive immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is important for vaccine development, interpreting…

COVID-19: Did the Spanish Flu kill “an estimated 2 to 3 percent of those infected”?

Within the past few weeks, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world, commenters in news media have propagated a meme that’s now firmly embedded in the public consciousness. It’s best summed up in an article in Vox that’s typical of the trend, “Did the coronavirus get more deadly? The death rate, explained.”1 The Vox…

COVID-19: Mathematical models in the face of uncertainty

A study recently released by Imperial College London has been heavily reported in the media; the authors estimate that in the absence of mitigation, COVID-19 could claim the lives of 510,000 people in Great Britain and 2.2 million people in the United States by the end of August.1 A collaborative study overseen by Columbia University…

Coronavirus in Italy – Report From The Front Lines

A JAMA livestream from March 13: Insights from Maurizio Cecconi, MD, of Humanitas University in Milan, at the epicenter of the pandemic where the overwhelming majority of Italy’s COVID-19 cases are being treated. Some important points: Despite reports from China, the Italian experience so far is that the clinical picture is like any other interstitial…

Worth reading: History in a Crisis — Lessons for Covid-19

Much needed perspective from David S. Jones, M.D., Ph.D., in NEJM. www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2004361 An especially worthwhile excerpt: “History suggests that we are actually at much greater risk of exaggerated fears and misplaced priorities. There are many historical examples of panic about epidemics that never materialized (e.g., H1N1 influenza in 1976, 2006, and 2009). There are countless…

Worth watching: Putting COVID-19 in Context

“During SCCM’s (Society of Critical Care Medicine) 49th Critical Care Congress, Amesh Adalja, MD, describes the history of coronavirus infections pre-SARS and post-SARS, describes members of the Coronavirus family and genus, and puts it into context around COVID-19 and how we can understand the clinical management of coronavirus infections.” The conference was held between February…

Worth reading: Covid-19 — Navigating the Uncharted

Just published today (February 28, 2020) in the New England Journal of Medicine, from Anthony Fauci and Clifford Lane (director and deputy director, respectively, of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease) and Robert Redfield (director of the CDC). A clear, concise report on what is currently known about the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak from…

Modeling the Spread of Infectious Disease: The SIR and MSEIR compartment models

Until the twentieth century, infectious diseases had been the proximate cause of almost all human illness and death. The mid-1900s saw the advent of widespread vaccination and use of antibiotics to combat the once intractable causative agents of these pathologies; viruses and bacteria. Major achievements of vaccination against globally endemic viral infections include the eradication…