The Economist February 22nd, 2020 pp59-60 International “Covid-19” “Watchful waiting”. “Experts predict that covid-19 will spread more widely; the world is getting ready.
So far 99% of the Corona virus 2019 (Covid-19) cases have been in China. Despite many concerted efforts by Chinese authorities the virus has spread rapidly. The other 1% of new cases, so far, have presented themselves in 27 countries. Experts worry that Covid-19 may become a pandemic-a disease prevalent over a whole country or the world. CDC said “America should be prepared for the virus ‘to gain a foothold’. The U.S. government earmarks $1B for disaster preparedness but such funding is not available in less fortunate countries.
In Asia and elsewhere, inbound passengers are being screened for signs and symptoms of Covid-19. Most cases though may present at emergency rooms and clinics increasing the infection risk to health care workers. With SARs, another corona virus, 30% of those infected were health care workers. Just now, in America, patients with the appropriate symptoms are being “sampled” for flu and Covid-19 molecular testing. Flu testing results are available within minutes using established “Point-Of-Care testing while Covid-19 testing results are available in days after shipping to and testing at the CDC laboratories in Atlanta. Commercially available testing may be months away. Ultimately, with enough experience, physicians will just make a diagnosis before having confirming data.
At the hospital, suspected and confirmed cases are isolated and extra precautions are taken by healthcare staff. Eventually, if the number of cases balloons, entire wings of a hospital or even separate facilities may house those infected. Such action limits the spread, enables better triaging of patients and makes better use of available resources; equipment-protective materials, ventilators and available uninfected staff. Although, in development, there currently is no “off the shelf” vaccine.