Key health and science updates on the pandemic from around the globe

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Different strategies are employed worldwide to face the reality of hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) restricted capacity. China, for instance, did not wait long to implement restrictive measures, like city lockdowns and school closures. On the other hand, England first believed that being too restrictive too early would lead to a large second epidemic once measures were lifted. They finally applied restrictive measures after a sudden rise of infected cases.

Behind these different defensible measures lie mathematical computer simulation models applied to the epidemiology of infectious disease. These mathematical models were used to model the Ebola and Zika viruses in the past.

There is still debate among scientists about which mathematical model most accurately represents characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 and the affected population, and about the scope of such models within government authority restriction plans.

Martin Enserink, Kai Kupferschmidt, Mathematics of life and death: How disease models shape national shutdowns and other pandemic policies, Science magazine, March 25, 2020

Original article :

Scientists from academic, independent and government labs around the world have been able to compile data regarding the genomic sequencing data of SARS-CoV-2 virus. Seen as the backbone of the virus, the genome of SARS-CoV-2 is made of approximately 30 000 base pairs. Virus strain is defined as a specific base pair sequence. A potential vaccine development in the near future requires fully understanding that sequence. Note that the mutagenic potential of a virus is a limiting factor in the development of a vaccine. For now, the virus does not seem to evolve rapidly.

“The virus mutates so slowly that the virus strains are fundamentally very similar to each other.”

– Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

Elizabeth Weine, 8 strains of the coronavirus are circling the globe. Here’s what clues they’re giving scientists, USA today, March 27, 2020

Original article :

People tend to isolate and practice social distancing when they feel an imminent threat, as states that have seen fewer confirmed cases haven’t slowed down as much. Yet, the cases we see today reflect transmission that has happened in the past.

“I like it when people are thinking I’m overreacting because that means we’re doing it just right.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Stuart A. Thompson and Yaryna Serkez, How Has Your State Reacted to Social Distancing?, The New York Times, March 23, 2020

Original article :

The spread can be slowed if people practice social distancing, as it outperforms free-for-all and attempted quarantine. Moreover, extensive social distancing works better than moderate or mild distancing.

Harry Stevens, Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to “flatten the curve”, Washington Post, March 14, 2020.

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