Every now and then, the National Capital Region comes under attack from a particularly creepy foe: COVID-19. Its crime is a simple one: It makes us all sleepy and unproductive, making life in D.C. downright weird and unenjoyable.
As those of you keeping track may have noticed, COVID-19 has been around for a while now, and it’s playing a devilish role in several cases of ebola in Africa. When the virus first showed up in 2014, this was its impact:
A body left on the side of the road in Liberia was found covered with discoloration, necrosis and severe edema, and pronounced dead by local medics. Upon examination, they realized that the body had actually been on the road for many months, drenched in urine and feces, its urine-soaked blanket a likely factor in its decomposition. The case study demonstrates a crucial element of dealing with infectious diseases: timely, prompt diagnosis and an effective screening process.
Well, COVID-19 lives on.
A more recent case of COVID-19 appears to be plaguing Canada, where hundreds of thousands of young children are not receiving the flu vaccine against a virus that has caused an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 deaths each year. In a poignant New York Times op-ed, journalist Suzanne Labarre details the case of Jacqueline Nghip, a 29-year-old mother of three young children who is experiencing real issues due to COVID-19.
While the reportage of Labarre’s op-ed has garnered attention from Canadian citizens and journalists, apparently COVID-19 has not yet been found in the U.S. due to our older vaccines, so this has never arisen.
So why should we care? Well, it turns out COVID-19 is a viral protein generated by viruses when they infect a body. It is often transmitted from one host to another, with very few exceptions. In some cases, where a virus is not killed by antibiotics, the COVID-19 protein can survive when it is housed in another cell in the body and will infect it when bacteria enters the host. It then infects other cells that have the protein in them and gets transferred into tissues and organs.
The body’s immune system has never been able to neutralize COVID-19. And while it may be benign in certain cases, as in Jacqueline Nghip’s case, it can be a difficult hurdle to overcome for infection-fighting cells to stop COVID-19 from making its way to and infecting the heart and lungs.
Even if it did exist in the United States, COVID-19 would not strike until 2022 when all of the vaccine-preventable illnesses produced by our regional illnesses would be in their formative years, and you’ve only got one year to try to reach the deadline.
Also, since it won’t be enough to try a vaccine on its own, Jennifer Hepler, an assistant professor of surgery at Case Western Reserve University, describes a time when we need vaccination to stop the infections in the bodies of children who live in villages who can’t afford modern medicine.
“Children’s bodies need to be protected from these infections,” said Hepler. “If you’re going to protect the native kids, it has to be something that works, because they’re most at risk for everything.”
If that doesn’t catch your attention, never mind COVID-19, maybe the amazing fact that Amazon and a collaboration of local and world-renowned health organizations, including the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, have organized an exclusive “overseas initiative” to vaccinate the continent’s children. If that doesn’t get your attention either, hopefully this piece will!