Tuesday, December 01, 2020


Two Coronavirus Mysteries


As we move sloooowwwwllllly towards a vaccine, two anomalies in the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic have endured. One relates to age: it appears that children under 10 don't get COVID as often as other age groups and when they do, it is generally not very serious. The second relates to region: as the map above (from The NY Times) shows, African and South Asian nations have much lower reported COVID rates than Northern Hemisphere countries. 

The age disparity is fascinating. Some have speculated (according to the Mayo Clinic report linked above) that kids might be primed to fight it because they so often get colds, or that their bodies' immune systems don't over-react to the virus the way older people's bodies do. It seems like that would be a pretty good thing to figure out, so we can understand what limits the spread of the virus to kids and perhaps replicate that in adults (though I don't want to be catching a cold every week).

The regional disparity is striking. Three African countries--Madagascar, Tanzania, and Western Sahara-- have no recent reported cases at all. Zero. Rates in most other African countries are extremely low: the populous nation of Nigeria, for example, has a rate of .1 per 100,000 people, compared to the US rate of 49 per 100 people.

There are a lot of bad and borderline racist explanations floated for this. For example, some say that repressive regimes in the third world are more effective at limiting movement than first world nations. That's an inapt comparison right now, if you look at the efforts European nations are taking compared to African states. The European lockdowns have been far more extensive. Similarly, the argument that there are few tests doesn't explain it either, not when you have nations reporting ZERO cases (even without broad testing, severe cases would become clear), and western medical workers and skilled African doctors in much of the continent. A third argument, about dispersed populations, falls apart when you consider densely populated Nigeria and thinly populated North Dakota.

I'm hoping that part of what comes out of the studies being done is some explanation of these anomalies. From that might come a deeper understanding of our world.

I read this link about Covid and kids. It was pretty interesting. The thought is the MMR vaccine may be helping kids fight the virus. As we age not only do our immune systems start to degrade but the effectiveness of vaccines we received as infants also dissipate in our systems. So if you have had boosters as an adult that may be beneficial.

The Coronavirus has to travel to survive. Many countries may lack the infrastructure that the virus needs to spread. This limits their intra and interstate commerce, but is a benefit in a pandemic. Less sterile living conditions may lead to immune systems becoming more robust. It will be very important that an affordable vaccine arrives before the inevitable spread of the virus reaches areas of the world that are least able to cope with it.
The countries that have good transportation systems and public health standards imposed strict national guidelines and were able to limit the spread of the virus. In most of Asia, New Zealand and Australia they have fought the virus to a standstill. I don't think repression factors into it as much as strict observance of national guidelines.
This is why in the USA it was essential to have a national response.

Small children are less capable of contracting large doses of the virus at one time. I have read that the severity of a case of Covid-19 is directly related to the size of the load of the Coronavirus when it first enters the body. Perhaps this explains why children experience only light cases and shed little of the virus to others. They seem to have developed adequate defenses to deal with these light loads.

Hmmm... interesting, Dad. I wonder if travel really is rarer per capita in a country like Nigeria. It's a good question. On the kid theory, that makes sense. I'm just glad kids aren't terribly affected most of the time!
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