Tuesday, 21 April 2020

The new coronavirus may be mutating to a less deadly form

The new coronavirus may be mutating to a less deadly formLife will not return to normal anytime soon, even if states lift COVID-19 lockdowns in an attempt to revive hard-hit economies. Face masks will be de rigueur, people may be "trapped indoors for months," and crowded public events are out, science reporter Donald McNeil Jr. writes at The New York Times, citing more than 20 health and science experts. Until there's a vaccine, "if Americans pour back out in force, all will appear quiet for perhaps three weeks. Then the emergency rooms will get busy again."Among the many things we don't yet understand about this new coronavirus is how deadly it is or how many people have been infected. "Fatality rates depend heavily on how overwhelmed hospitals get and what percentage of cases are tested," and those numbers keep getting revised in hard-hit areas, McNeil reports. People who die of the disease at home or in overwhelmed hospitals are not counted, but people with few or no symptoms are never tested, so "if you don't know how many people are infected, you don't know how deadly a virus is."The changing fatality rate is one reason the models keep fluctuating, McNeil says, but "there may be good news buried in this inconsistency: The virus may also be mutating to cause fewer symptoms. In the movies, viruses become more deadly. In reality, they usually become less so, because asymptomatic strains reach more hosts. Even the 1918 Spanish flu virus eventually faded into the seasonal H1N1 flu."While we don't know the fatality rate or level of contagion, the "refrigerated trucks parked outside hospitals tell us all we need to know: It is far worse than a bad flu season," McNeil writes. How the pandemic ends depends on the virus' lethality, medical advances, and how individuals behave, he adds. "If we scrupulously protect ourselves and our loved ones, more of us will live. If we underestimate the virus, it will find us."More stories from theweek.com What do animals think? Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez are reportedly actively exploring a bid for the New York Mets A parade that killed thousands?

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