Coronavirus Pandemic – XI: IS THE END IN SIGHT?
When and how is this pandemic going to end? This is what everyone wants to know. So, I posed this question to Dr. Mary Barsanti, Assistant professor of Medicine and Infectious Disease at Loyola College of Medicine, Chicago. Here’s her answer:
“We are currently at a delicate junction with the SARS CoV-2 pandemic. Multiple vaccines are approved and inoculation rates are increasing across the country. During the month of March, over 2 million adults have been receiving vaccines per day in the U.S. As the numbers of vaccinated individuals climb, the virus will have fewer and fewer people to infect. With fewer Covid-19 infections, the virus will also have less ability to mutate and create variants, which will be essential to ending this pandemic. If we are able to continue on this steady trajectory with increasing vaccine rates and continued safety measures and, once at least the older children and teenagers have the opportunity to get vaccinated, I am hopeful to see the end of the pandemic by 2022. The projections are we need close to 85 percent of the population to develop full immunity to bring an end to this crisis. And that could take up to a year. We have the tools to get there with the vaccines and appropriate public health safety measures such as masking and social distancing; we just have to be patient. Masks will likely be here for awhile, but it is a small price to pay to slowly get back to a near ‘normal’ life. We also have to remember that the U.S. does not live in isolation and it will also be imperative to have an efficient world-wide vaccination program, to end the pandemic on a global scale. As we have learned, diseases can swiftly travel across the globe.”
More vaccines are becoming available to all sections of the public and distribution is better. As of now, nearly 45 million (about 15 percent) of the population has been vaccinated. Vaccine is the first chapter in the end game and mass vaccination seems to be our best hope; and we are steadily cruising toward the finish line. Hopefully, by the end of fall, close to 85 percent of the population will be vaccinated, the magic number for herd immunity to develop for a drastic reduction in the rate of infections.
Encouraged by the news, many states are opening their businesses, ending mask mandates and easing on other pandemic precautions. But experts say, “This fairly liberal approach to reopening is potentially dangerous because we know from history that there is a concrete risk of seeing new waves of infection, potentially more virulent than the first one.” To give support to this concept, suddenly many countries like Brazil, Spain, Italy and a few others are experiencing a true second wave of infection and indeed this second wave is deadlier than the first. If that happens, the entire U.S. will go into another lockdown! Also remember, up to 10 percent of the vaccinated individuals may still not be completely protected. However, once you are fully vaccinated, you can move around with more ease amid other vaccinated people.
The virus is not going anywhere soon, so we will still have to observe all the current precautions for some more time, may be indefinitely? Since the virus is mutating as they always do and the current vaccine may not protect against the future new variants, it’s entirely possible we may wind up getting vaccinated every year like we do with flu vaccines. As per Timothy Sheahan, a corona virologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “Over time, human responses primed by a vaccine or natural exposure could mean that Covid-19 will be no worse than the common cold.” That would be great.
Currently, the projection is that the U.S. can transition toward normalcy by the end of 2021 or early 2022. This only means that the virus may have weakened with establishment of herd immunity through vaccination and so less chance for widespread infections and mortality. Consumer surveys suggest that a portion of the population is still cautious about vaccination. This simply won’t do and in my opinion everybody needs to be vaccinated. Return to normalcy will depend on a combination of factors that include near complete vaccination of the population, seasonality, increasing natural immunity, healthy living and a strong public-health response.
To be continued …
M.P. Ravindra Nathan, M.D., is a cardiologist and Emeritus Editor of AAPI Journal. For further reading, “Second Chance - A Sister’s Act of Love” by Dr. Nathan from Outskirts Press, can be found at www.amazon.com
EYES on your Lady!
As we wrapped up the FAPI (Florida Association of Physicians of Indian Origin) event focused on women in Clearwater recently, it struck me to write my next column about eye conditions more prevalent in women and the need for precautions, health and unique aspects for surgical consideration in their cases.
And what better time to write and review about this than in the month of April, which is officially National Women's Eye Health month.
Ladies, did you know that women are more likely to suffer from vision problems and at higher risk of permanent vision loss than men? In fact, women account for more than two-thirds of the world’s blind and visually impaired people. If you did not know that, you are not alone. Most women don’t know that, which means that many of them aren’t taking the necessary precautions to prevent eye damage and vision loss.
Many of the major vision problems studied show that women have a higher percentage of prevalence than men. These include and in many cases are more than 50 percent prevalence:
Age-related Macular Degeneration
Refractive error (nearsightedness, astigmatism, farsightedness)
With more computer usage and screen time due to this recent pandemic, dry eyes are more common and even so more in women since they are more susceptible to chronicity of dry eyes. This can be impacted by hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause or other conditions such as ocular rosacea or Sjögren’s (which are far more common in women than men).
Many women do not seek help for this relentless condition and often relegate it to aging.
Prevention and protection will always go a long way. It is important for women to know the risks for eye-related diseases and vision impairment and steps to prevent vision loss:
Learn about your family history of eye diseases and conditions.
Wear 100 percent UV-blocking sunglasses when outdoors to protect your eyes from the sun.
Do not smoke.
Consume a healthy diet with proper nutrition.
Follow contact lens hygiene and safety.
Follow cosmetic hygiene and remove makeup properly after use.
Protect your eyes against exposure to blue light (computers, smartphones, LEDs) for extended periods of time.
If you are diabetic and pregnant or planning to become pregnant, monitor your eye health. Diabetic retinopathy can accelerate quickly during pregnancy and presents a risk for the mother and baby as well.
It is common for women to not take care of themselves, but to put their families first. Speak to your eye care doctor about your personal eye health and vision risks and the precautions and measures you should take to protect your sight. Encourage the other women in your life to do so too. Once vision is lost, it can be difficult to regain or in some cases there can be total irreversible damage. There are many steps you can take for prevention with proper knowledge and awareness. The most important way is to ensure you schedule regular eye exams.
Be proactive. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear as many eye issues are painless and symptomless, and sometimes by the time you notice symptoms, vision loss is untreatable.
I personally teach eye surgeons to take into account the above-listed pathologies more prevalent in women so they differ in not performing cookie-cutter Lasik or Smile surgery or any such corneal-cutting procedures, but to design a “No-Cut, No-Blade” LaZrplastique surgery to help correct patients’ nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism to vision without contact lenses or glasses.
Women provide the backbone for society and deserve our special care and attention at all levels. May I also encourage all to “focus” on their eyes too!