Amid the global gloom after more than six months of a pandemic, a piece of good news emerged from some of the best minds in science. They reported that the ferocity of the coronavirus disease appears to be receding, which explains the drop in mortality in most nations.
A better prospect according to experts is that the coronavirus outbreak has a good chance of spending itself out without the need for a vaccine.
“It was like an aggressive tiger in March and April, but now it’s like a wild cat,” Prof. Matteo Bassetti, head of the infectious diseases clinic at Italy’s Policlinico San Martino Hospital, said.
It was in Italy where the first wave of the outbreak hit resulting in 34,738 deaths.
Basetti noted that even elderly patients, who a few months ago would have died, “are sitting up in bed, and breathing without help.”
Bassetti told a British publication that the virus has changed in recent months.
“The clinical impression I have is that the virus is changing in severity,” he said.
The studies he made showed the patterns were completely different in March and early April.
“People were coming to the emergency department with a very difficult-to-manage illness, and they needed oxygen and ventilation; some developed pneumonia,” according to the physician, citing first-hand experiences.
“Now, in the past four weeks, the picture has completely changed in terms of patterns. There could be a lower viral load in the respiratory tract, probably due to a genetic mutation in the virus, which has not yet been demonstrated scientifically. Also, we are now more aware of the disease and able to manage it,” he added.
The doctor explained the possibility of the virus mutating to a weaker state, “because our immune system reacts to the virus, and we have a lower viral load now due to the lockdown, mask-wearing and social distancing.”
“We still have to demonstrate why it’s different now,” he said.
“Yes, probably it could go away completely without a vaccine. We have fewer and fewer people infected and it could end up with the virus dying out,” he noted.
Another expert, Prof. Karol Sikora, an oncologist and the chief medical officer at Rutherford Health in the United Kingdom, said the pandemic could end up “petering out by itself.”
Of course, many others dispute such findings as too optimistic. Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School and a former Public Health England consultant, called the idea “optimistic in the short term,” adding that he didn’t expect it would die out so quickly.
“It will if it has no one to infect. If we have a successful vaccine then we’ll be able to do what we did with smallpox. But because it’s so infectious and widespread, it won’t go away for a very long time,” he said.
“My estimate is ranging from ‘never’ to — if we are really lucky and it sort of mutates and mutates (and) may lose its virulence — we’re talking years and years,” Pankhnia predicted.
Also, the situation in the Philippines is not a source of optimism since World Health Organization data showed the country ranked third behind China and Singapore in terms of number of cases.
Almost 10,000 new infections were recorded in just two weeks from 14 to 28 June against Singapore, which added less than 3,000 new cases during the same period.
However, it’s all science as President Rodrigo Duterte often says. which may mean that the experts have a better appreciation of the situation.
The Italian doctor’s finding is still something to hold on to and a reason to keep our fingers crossed.