Not So Positive
“Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.” – Elie Wiesel
In Friday’s blog post, I told you that I had contracted COVID-19 from someone that was, at the time, asymptomatic. So that answers one question: Yes. Asymptomatic carriers can be infectious.
But my contact with this person was not casual or brief. I spent an hour wrestling with him. As I said in an earlier essay on the virus, I can’t imagine a more efficient way of transferring a virus than by wrestling with someone for an hour.
Well, I can – which brings me to this: K tested positive. This was hardly a surprise to either of us. We had been sharing the same bed before I discovered I was infected. She, like me, has had only mild, flu-like symptoms. And yes, she’s not happy with me. She’s staying at the beach house. I’m still in the doghouse.
I’m not worried about her health. She’s youngish and super-healthy. As I said on Friday, I’m worried about the people on my “contact list.” Three, in particular, would be categorized as vulnerable. Two with a compromised immune system and one an octogenarian.
One of them got results yesterday. He was negative. He’s someone I exercise with, so I was relieved. All of which brings me to a question about the current surge in cases.
There have been several reports that these new cases are caused by a strain of the virus that is slightly different from the strain that was dominant in March and April. This new strain, some researchers are saying, may be more contagious but less virulent. If that is true, it would explain why we’ve seen such a sharp rise in cases nationwide (really, worldwide) but have not seen a rise in average death rates.
We have to be careful about comparing current cases with current deaths because of the lag time between symptoms and death. I was unable to find exact numbers, but the estimate that has been repeated is three weeks.
The current surge began on June 8, about a month ago. That’s more than three weeks. On June 8, there were 21,269 new cases and 908 new deaths reported in the US. As I write this, four weeks later, the number of new cases in the US is over 40,000 with 737 new deaths. That’s encouraging news, but it’s nothing to feel good about. The current two-week average death count has not climbed much, but it has climbed a little. My guess is that the primary reason the death count is not rising sharply is because such a high percentage of recent cases are young people. And their chances of dying from COVID-19 are relatively low.
If this trend continues, we could see the surge as a positive development in that it would be getting us closer to herd immunity. And that, as I’ve pointed out previously, is the only way COVID-19 can be eradicated. (An effective vaccine, widely distributed, is the fastest and safest way of achieving herd immunity.)
Which brings us to another question that I’ve been trying to answer since I got the bug:
Do the antibodies produced by a person who has been infected with coronavirus protect them from becoming infected again?
Here again, I rely on the best report I’ve seen on the virus recently, from Harvard Health Publishing:
Most people who are infected with the COVID-19 virus, whether or not they have symptoms, produce antibodies (proteins that fight infections). New research published in Nature Medicine looked at how long those antibodies last.
Results from this small study suggest that levels of one type of antibody dropped sharply within two to three months. However, the decrease in neutralizing antibodies, which target the spike protein on the coronavirus and can help protect against reinfection, was much smaller.
Whether or not the remaining antibodies protect against reinfection, and for how long, is still unclear. It’s possible that even low levels of neutralizing antibodies may be able to protect against reinfection. On the other hand, the presence of antibodies does not guarantee immunity.
Another consideration is that antibodies are only one part of the body’s immune response. Memory B cells, for example, can quickly generate a strong antibody response to a virus that the body has encountered before.
So that’s something to hope for.
More on Wednesday…
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