1 or 101: How many Ukrainians can actually be infected with coronavirus?

Author : Iryna Shostak

Source : 112 Ukraine

The first case of coronavirus infection was registered in Ukraine on March 3
23:21, 3 March 2020

La Republica

“The first case of coronavirus infection registered in Ukraine” - thousands of Ukrainians were scared to hear this news in 2020.

Now it happened. The Deputy Health Minister, Chief Sanitary Doctor of Ukraine Viktor Lyashko officially confirmed the information about the first coronavirus case in Ukraine on March 3.

Opinions about his statement can divide: some will start to panic that “the virus has crossed the border and hit Ukraine, and therefore the indicators of risk of morbidity will immediately skyrocket,” while others will continue to reassure themselves that this is only the first a case, which, according to Viktor Lyashko, did not cause any extraordinary events. One way or another, however, both reactions could turn out completely inappropriate if we assume that the coronavirus infection has been living in Ukraine for two or three weeks, quietly “living” among us.

Yes, this assumption may be true, as holding temperature screening does not guarantee that physicians will be able to find the diseased at the border or on the plane. World Health Organization has already confirmed this opinion stating that viruses in infected persons can be in the incubation period (14 to 27 days) and therefore there will not be any obvious symptoms of infection.

“Body temperature screening at entry or exit by itself is not an effective way to prevent the spread of infection between countries, since infected persons may be in the incubation period, they may not have obvious symptoms because of the early stages of the disease, or they could have taken antipyretic and hide the symptoms. In addition, such measures require significant investment, and there could be little benefit from it,” the organization said.

Moreover, such measures carried out by a number of European countries, have in fact also proved ineffective. In particular, Italy, which was the first to become the main epicenter of the spread of the virus in Europe, introduced intensified measures to combat infection. “If you look at Italy, they stopped all flights from China and they're now the worst affected country in Europe,” the UK Health Minister Matt Hancock said, commenting on the authorities' decision not to suspend aviation with Italy, where about 3 million British travel each year.

Other European high-ranking officials also opposed the panic, who, noting that this virus spread regardless of the borders. According to the health ministers of France, Germany, Italy and the European Commission, the decision to close these borders is a “disproportionate measure.” In particular, German Minister of Health Jens Spahn expressed such opinion, while acknowledging that things could get worse.

In other words, it is impossible to quarantine every inhabitant of the planet, so the surrounding people, who seem healthy, will anyway continue to transfer the virus further.

A number of foreign materials support this opinion. In particular, the U.S. agency The Atlantic published an article with an eloquent title: “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus.”

In the article, Harvard professor of epidemiology, Marc Lipsitch, says that containment policy has always been and remains the first step in response to an outbreak of infection, but in the case of the Chinese coronavirus, it did not prove effective. Since January, China has begun to cut off the city of Wuhan from other regions of the country, gradually closing other nearby cities to quarantine. However, cases of Chinese coronavirus infection are currently reported in 68 countries.

The professor also predicts that 40 to 70% of people worldwide will be infected with the COVID-19 virus within the next year. However, as he notes, this does not mean that everyone will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or might be asymptomatic,” he said. Thus, many epidemiologists equate the coronavirus to influenza, that we face almost every day and that often threatens the lives of people with chronic diseases and elderly people. In addition, the majority of flu cases pass without turning to medical help (about 14% of people with flu have no symptoms). And if we go back to the coronavirus, mostly elderly people and people with weak immunity die from it. Just like in case of flu.

So, how many patients do we have in Ukraine today? One, two, three, ten or maybe even hundreds? This question is still open, as there are not enough coronavirus detecting kits for every resident of the country. Therefore, while symptoms appear and our doctors are able to apply the test system to detect the disease, an infected person, unaware of his condition, can infect hundreds, even thousands of people around him at home, on his way to work or study, in shops, malls and public transport. And we must accept it without panic.

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