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Setting ourselves up for a fall?

27 July 2021

Some interesting research has come out in the fight against CV19.

A Stanford University study points to the way that exposure to the common cold can affect a patient's vulnerability to the worst symptoms of Covid.

The studdy suggests that people who have had regular exposure to regular seasonal coronaviruses are better equipped to cope with a CV19 infection and therefore far less likely to be hospitalised or die as a result.

This Science Daily story covers most of the bases.

It is believed that this may be one of the reasons why young people are less likely to be badly affected by CV19, presumably because they are more likely to be exposed to seasonal colds and thus develop a more rapid anti-body response.

If this is true then we must wonder what effect the lockdowns and social-distancing of recent times will have on the effects of CV19 here in New Zealand.

I've already written a couple of columns in which I've rejoiced at the fact that I've not been struck down with a cold since 2019.

Whilst I'm chuffed to bits at not having to spend a couple of weeks sniffling and blowing my nose into an ever-growing pile of soggy tissues, it could be that this is far less of a good thing than I'd thought.

Without proper "priming" for a couple of years are we, as a nation, now more vulnerable to CV19 than we should be?

Of course vaccination will give many people's immune system the "shot in the arm" it needs to mount a robust defense against the virus but we still suffer more than might have otherwise been the case? Even those with both shots of vaccine are not immune to CV19 or its effects and that lack of exposure to other seasonal coronaviruses could mean the difference between mild symptoms and something more injurious.

On the good news front, it appears (at least at this stage) as if the UK's great experiment is a success.

For the sixth day in a row, the number of reported CV19 cases in Britain has fallen, as have deaths. It would appear that the third wave has peaked.

Of course some experts are quick to point out that the effects of "freedom day" relaxation of restrictions will take some time to filter through so there could be a resurgence in numbers over the next couple of weeks but many are still optimistically cautious that the worst is behind them.

Unfortunately it will probably only take the emergence of a single new variant that sidesteps the vaccines to throw everything into chaos again. Fingers are crossed.

It might be worthwhile looking at what happened with the Spanish Flu epidemic for some more insight into where we're likely headed with this pandemic.

It took around two years for the Spanish Flu to complete its evolution into something far less fatal.

The virus first started having a noticeable impact in June of 1917 and during the year to 18 months that followed, over half a billion were infected, of which as many as 50 million died.

The virus produced four distinct waves of infection (so the UK could be lined up for yet another spike in numbers) but by 1920 had mutated into far less dangerous strains with the result that it was no longer a significant threat to life.

There is little reason to believe that CV19 will follow a different trajectory so whilst it still poses a threat, the chances are that within another 12 months things will be able to largely get back to normal. People will continue to be infected but the mortality rate should have fallen significantly by then to little more than that produced by existing strains of influenza.

Fingers crossed... plan for the worst and hope for the best.

And, above all: Carpe Diem to the max!

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