Tuesday, April 28, 2020

COVID-19: Why We Still Don't Know How It's Killing Us

I  see the pictures of the coronavirus deniers on TV, echoing the murderous ignorance of their master Donald Trump.

I talk about them with some of the frontline workers who are risking their lives to try to defeat COVID-19.

We try to laugh at them, but it's so hard when the coronavirus they are mocking is so deadly.

And we can't actually be sure how that sinister bug is killing us.

The clinical shape of the disease, long presumed to be a relatively predictable respiratory infection, is getting less clear by the week. Lately, it seems, by the day. As Carl Zimmer, probably the country’s most respected science journalist, asked virologists in a tweet last week, “is there any other virus out there that is this weird in terms of its range of symptoms?”

For where we once thought that COVID-16 just attacked the lungs, now we know better, as Science magazine found out when it tried to list what we know about the virus.

“Despite the more than 1,000 papers now spilling into journals and onto preprint servers every week,” Science concluded, “a clear picture is elusive, as the virus acts like no pathogen humanity has ever seen.” 

In a single illuminating chart, Science lists the following organs as being vulnerable to COVID-19: brain, eyes, nose, lungs, heart, blood vessels, livers, kidneys, intestines. That is to say, nearly every organ.

It can strike those who didn't even know they were sick.

The patient’s chart appeared unremarkable at first glance. He took no medications and had no history of chronic conditions. He had been feeling fine, hanging out at home during the lockdown like the rest of the country, when suddenly, he had trouble talking and moving the right side of his body. Imaging showed a large blockage on the left side of his head. Oxley gasped when he got to the patient’s age and covid-19 status: 44, positive.

And this is horrifying:

As Oxley, an interventional neurologist, began the procedure to remove the clot, he observed something he had never seen before. On the monitors, the brain typically shows up as a tangle of black squiggles — “like a can of spaghetti,” he said — that provide a map of blood vessels. A clot shows up as a blank spot. As he used a needlelike device to pull out the clot, he saw new clots forming in real-time around it. 

“This is crazy,” he remembers telling his boss.

But of course what is crazier and even more horrifying, is that some people just don't get it.

They are determined to endanger themselves, frontline workers, the old and the vulnerable, and the rest of us.

Even though as Andrew Nikiforuk points out, we are now in a new danger zone.

We have now entered the most dangerous phase of this pandemic. We are all tired of physical isolation. We are worried about an economic depression in a global economy already undermined by gross inequalities. We fear for the future, and yearn for something normal even though our exhausted civilization no longer behaves normally. 

We want this emergency to end. And many want it to end at any cost. The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada And that is where the dangers lie. For we now live in the domain of a novel coronavirus. The virus is but five months old, a mere infant in the scheme of things. By most accounts its global adventures could last two years.

And letting down our guard now could be catastrophic.

The virus will continue to illuminate our weaknesses. Whenever and wherever we let down our guard, this virus will almost certainly explode with a bang.

Do not delude yourself or those you love. This emergency has just begun. Be a strong and active citizen. Demand that leaders ignore the unruly waves of expedience and guide us, instead, carefully through these dangerous waters

And as for all those ugly Cons who would delude themselves, or just don't care about the lives of others.

I promise to return the favour, and not give a damn if they die.

But will do my best to try to arrange the kind of funeral they deserve...


As for the rest of you, don't despair. Try to smile as I am doing.

For we are winning. The thin blue line is holding. If we all do what we must do we will beat that bug.

And then we'll have the biggest party this country has ever seen.

Stay Safe. Stay Strong...


Jackie Blue said...

And that's not even taking into account the mental health effects from surviving this illness or watching someone you love suffer from it or even die. There's going to be an explosion of PTSD just like every other war. Disability claims will skyrocket because people can only take so much. Some people will not be able to return to work, not only from the after effects of the physical virus but the emotional trauma of enduring it. Some people were already unable to work prior to the pandemic and will only feel left out further by their inability to take part in the re-emerging labor force as they hear the steady drumbeat from public officials to "re-open the economy!" Frontline health workers are dying from suicide because they can't bear the nonstop horror they're witnessing. And then there's the exacerbation of racism and scapegoating of Asians, immigrants and the LGBT community from the likes of Donald Trump, Derek Sloan and those of their ilk who follow them, that only adds further trauma to an already wounded or marginalized group of people.

This crisis is really going to put society to the test and force a confrontation as to what we value as "work," how we form our identities around employment, and how those who can't be employed but really want to, are all too often discarded or demeaned as lazy shirkers or useless eaters. John Ivison penning an angry, privileged, Arbeit Macht Frei screed for the Irrational Post about "welfare slackers" and wards of the state is gross and unacceptable. It's that kind of selfish mindset, endemic to jerks like him and those protesters, that is just as insidious and detrimental to the public health as the virus itself. But while there doesn't seem to be a cure for ignorance, thankfully, he's not everybody. I wish Margaret Trudeau a full and speedy recovery after that awful fire at her apartment, and know that she would want us to be talking about how this virus affects not only our physical bodies, but our minds and hearts as well.

Simone Moura said...

Hi Simon, woke up today with your name on my lips, for have dreamed of it..strange..am here to say kiked your blog, buddy!

Steve said...

Hi Simon Quebec just surrendered, is this common sense or mammon?

lagatta à montréal said...

Actually, in a very different culture, I think those men are valuing the deceased, not mocking them.

Simon said...

Hi Jackie...yes, good point. The mental health effects are going to be brutal. Seb and I are already seeing signs of that, and it's going to require a massive response. As you may remember I have been very critical of our mental health services, which are clearly second-rate. I'm hopeful that the pandemic will help change that, as well as improve services in the death houses we call long term care homes. I hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well, This really is a nightmare, but we will come out of it together...

Simon said...

Hi Simone....thank you, the more love and good thoughts we can share in these grim times the better...

Simon said...

Hi Steve....I.m not sure what's going on in Quebec. I've never had much confidence in Premier Lego, and I find it bizarre that so many in my province are feeling so smug when it has the highest number of deaths in Canada. As I tried to make clear in this post we are still learning things about the virus, so we have to be very very careful....

Simon said...

Hi lagatta...l'm not mocking anybody either. I just want to scare the bejesus out of those who threaten us all by not following social distancing, or not spending enough time at home. And Ghana, where consensual gay relationships are punishable by three years in jail, is already a pretty scary place...