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THOMPSON: With COVID-19, what you don't know can hurt you

September 28, 2020 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


We’ve all heard the idiom, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” Some of us have even used it to justify not telling someone a painful truth. The fact is...we should always know the truthful facts...especially in matters of life and death.

So it is with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Generally, the public tends to think of the COVID-19 pandemic in black and white terms. Ask most people and they believe you either get a mild case and recover quickly or you get really sick and end up in an intensive care unit...and possibly die.

Since COVID-19 is transmitted most widely through airborne droplets, we have come to think of it primarily as a respiratory disease. Physicians and researchers in Canada and the United States with whom I’ve spoken all say the disease is like a war fought on multiple fronts.

Even six months ago, physicians on the front lines knew COVID-19 was a formidable enemy capable of fighting the body’s immune systems from head to toe.

When someone with COVID-19 - asymptomatic or not - coughs, breathes, sneezes or otherwise expels virus-laden droplets and another person inhales them, COVID-19 begins battling in the new host’s nose and throat.

The cells in the linings of the nose and throat have high numbers of cell-surface receptors known as angiotensin-conversion enzymes called ACE2. These enzymes are found throughout the body’s organs and tissues and help regulate blood pressure.

Where ever these enzymes are found - pretty much head to toe - are potential entry points of COVID-19 infection...and without these receptor enzymes the virus couldn’t enter human cells.
Once inside the nose and throat, the virus takes over cells, and begins making millions
of copies of itself to invade healthy new cells throughout the body.

COVID-19 is extremely efficient...and left unchecked by not wearing masks, not washing hands and not staying at least six feet from others...brings devastating human tolls. Nearly 150,000 Canadians have been infected this year and more than 9,000 have died. Americans - largely due to the Trump Administration’s incompetence and deceptions - have more than 7,000,000 cases and more than 207,000 deaths.

What physicians are seeing worldwide is that COVID-19 leaves behind those who survive with a long list of issues that include irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, aching joints, fatigue, foggy thinking, loss of smell and potentially permanent damage to the heart, kidneys, lungs and brain.

Some COVID-19 patients have strokes, seizures, brain inflammation and foggy thinking, and physicians are trying to identify what is and isn’t caused by the virus. Patients also suffer from eye issues like conjunctivitis. In the heart, COVID-19 can cause blood clots, heart attacks and inflammation.

Severe cases often cause liver issues, which could be the result of an overactive immune response and side effects of drugs used to fight the infection. Kidney failure is common among severe infections, as well. What is clear, physicians and scientists say, is that survivors - of both mild and severe cases - face potentially long recoveries...and some face issues that threaten longevity.

Like you, I worry about family and friends...and my own health. It appears we will be waging the war against COVID-19 well into Fall 2021...a year from now. So, that means we’re only about one-third through this pandemic...at best.

I leave for Florida next month...the day after Thanksgiving. Our horse farm there is somewhat remote...the county has had 1,000 cases and nine deaths...and cases are diminishing. Still, we’ll have to be no less careful than here.

I’m concerned for my family and friends here...where we’re likely to see dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases over the Fall and Winter. Days are growing shorter...weather will soon make outside gatherings a fond memory. People young and old will be in close quarters at home...growing weary of a battle that we must still fight every day for maybe a year or more. That makes mental health as big a concern as physical health.

We need to be strong. The realities of this pandemic become more clear with every passing day.
We now know that what we face isn’t some random binary situation...mild case and move on or severe case and maybe recover...or perhaps die. This pandemic isn’t a matter of black or white...there are lots of shades of grey. Stay informed...what you don’t know CAN hurt you.

Don’t let down your guard — wearing masks, social distancing and good hygiene — are more important than ever. People who have fought in wars learn early on, it’s neither safe nor fair. Be careful.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.


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