Yes, most coronavirus infections are mild – nevertheless, or precisely because of this, the coronavirus is so difficult to contain. Adopting an unusual communication method on such a sensitive subject, German virologist Melanie Brinkmann takes to social media to explain what makes the virus so dangerous.
There have been claims, especially by conspiracy theorists, that the new coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2) is not dangerous more than common flu and all the efforts being made to contain it are exaggerated for sinister motives.
A leading German virologist has taken to social media to engage citizens in an effort to engender a better understanding of the pandemic in the populace.
Melanie Brinkmann, a professor of virology at the Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung (Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research), Braunschweig, explains on Twitter the uniqueness of the coronavirus and why it has held the world in its grip.
Is COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus infection, the deadliest disease? The answer is no, she says.
Why is it then so dangerous?
With a series of tweets, Prof Brinkmann explains that as most coronavirus infections are mild makes the virus very dangerous and therefore difficult to contain.
Very deadly viruses such as the Ebola virus are usually much easier to contain than the coronavirus, notes the virologist, explaining why this is so.
“Because [deadly viruses] make their host so seriously ill that they no longer are able go out to mix with people. In other words, the infected person can no longer infect many people and thus pass on the virus,” Brinkmann explains.
With the novel coronavirus, however, this is different: many infected people do not show any symptoms. But this does not mean that they are not infectious. Even before they exhibit first symptoms, they are already infectious.
This fact makes it easy for the virus to spread, the scientist added.
“The most successful viruses are generally those that leave the host alive and affect it as little as possible – the longer the virus can exploit its host to produce new virus particles, the better its chances of being passed on to the next host,” Brinkmann writes on Twitter.
Why the coronavirus is so dangerous for the health system
“Due to the rapid spread of Sars-CoV-2 and the rapid increase in the number of infected people, we then have a lot of seriously ill people in a short time, although they only make up a small part of those infected,” Brinkmann explains.
“And when the hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients, usual care for other patients is no longer possible, with dramatic consequences for all those who need treatment,” the scientist said.
This is already happening in many countries. In Italy, medical professionals have warned of an imminent collapse of the health system as a result of staff shortages. Some regions in Belgium, Great Britain and the Czech Republic have already reached their capacity limits.
Germany is also at risk of a shortage of intensive care unit (ICU) beds if the coronavirus caseload continues to rise, experts say.
According to official figures, the country has a total of 26,513 intensive care beds (as of 27 December 2020). Of these, 21,367 are occupied, with only 5,146 beds currently vacant.
Since intensive care treatment is limited by its capacity, when more patients need the treatment than the available capacity, then the system breaks down.
In such situations, the principle of triage is applied to decide which patients to treat and which to allow to die. It’s a nightmare that doctors would like to avoid which is why all efforts are being made to curtail the infection rate so that the country’s medical facilities are not overwhelmed.
Meanwhile Germany registered 1,129 deaths caused by COVID-19 within 24 hours, according to figures released by the Robert Koch Institute on Wednesday. It is the highest number of deaths in a single day from the disease in Germany since the start of the pandemic. The country had also registered, over the same 24 hour period, 22,459 new infections. Altogether, some 32,107 people have died from the disease so far in Germany.