The dream of curing any disease has always been a magic bullet. Take one of these and you will be cured. We are used to things being done instantly. Unfortunately, dreams don’t always come true. Diseases are more complex than that. Science has a process and it takes time.
COVID-19 is no exception. Before the hoped for vaccine is a reality there have to be some intermediate steps taken to help prevent the spread of the virus – steps we can do to protect ourselves and others.
Researchers discovered with malignant mesothelioma that a multi-disciplinary approach has been effective in advancing treatment. No magic bullet, but a combination of therapies for a specific type and stage of disease that helps a certain percentage of people. This has not been determined overnight but required a process that has involved years of scientific research resulting in small steps forward.
Until we get to the point that scientists have developed a vaccine, there are some proven ways to help contain the spread of the virus. A recent article in the New Yorker by Dr. Atul Gwande summarizes the approach that has been used successfully at the Mass General Brigham in Boston. This approach works when people follow all of the parts of the process by working together. Their four points include:
- Hygiene measures. Infectious disease experts have long said the single most important thing you can do to stop the spread of disease is washing your hands. The usual recommendation is 20 seconds with hot soapy water, or with anti-bacterial hand sanitizer. It is recommended that you wash your hands before eating, after touching your face or nose, sneezing, coughing, or touching a potentially contaminated surface.
- Screening for symptoms of the virus. Before going out people have been asked do they have a fever? Do they have a cough? Have they been in contact with any one who has tested positive for COVID-19?
- Social distancing. The virus is spread from person to person, between people in close contact with one another within about 6 feet. It also transfers via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Wearing masks when we are out of the house to protect ourselves and others can be a huge help.
- Culture change. The COVID-19 virus has changed our way of life. Things we did before are not recommended now or even available. Protecting ourselves and our neighbors from spreading the disease is becoming all of our responsibilities. For these steps to be successful we need to all participate to the best of our abilities.
None of these alone will stop the spread of the virus. None of these measures are the “magic bullet.” The four measures taken together will reduce the spread of the virus until a vaccine is developed. While none of these steps are harmful physically, they do take some effort and follow through. As a result they can help slow the virus and can help the vast majority of us psychologically with some peace of mind.