Published:  12:19 AM, 02 April 2020

In the war against COVID-19, deploying a militaristic medical strategy

Weakness of the COVID-19 enemy

COVID-19, one of the world's worst viral enemies, takes up to 14 days to become symptomatic and cause deaths. That's its key weakness in that it allows time to attack it early and defeat it before it grows in numbers and becomes a formidable foe.

Why the delay in symptoms and how does that help in strategizing?

When the COVID-19 viruses enter a human body through the nose, the mouth or the eyes, there are only a few of them to put up a serious fight against the body's soldiers. So, being very shrewd, they lie in wait, avoiding detection, before letting their intention known.

They slowly start replicating inside the upper respiratory tract cells, using indigenous resources, soon becoming larger in number and a formidable foe to be recognized by the binoculars of the cell's defense.

A battle ensues between the viral invaders and the resident defenders. In the fight, the cells heat up, developing the symptom of a high fever. In an effort to force out the invaders, body generates irritations, developing the symptom of coughing, sending signals to the infected person to seek medical attention.

Coughs, inadvertently, help spreading of the viruses, infecting more people. Soon the infected lungs ability to absorb oxygen, the critical agent for keeping the person alive, is compromised. Breathing on own becomes difficult, requiring artificial ventilators.

Some patients recover. Some do not. The number of deaths on the TV screens keeps rising. Panic keeps growing. The stock market sinks. The blame game by the media and the rebuttals by those responsible for remedies continue escalating. Local govts.

keep the pressure on the central govt. to send more ventilators, for the former to be ready for the apex, the peak of the bell-shaped curve, depicting the predicted number of people to be infected against time. The red ink on the world map continues to spread and cover new countries and more areas of the countries already infected. Self-isolations, social distancing, quarantines, travel restrictions --- all in efforts to flatten the curve --- turn city streets lifeless and people jobless and moneyless, and many without their loved ones, and many children fatherless and motherless.

The current strategy of flattening the curve, so as not to overwhelm the hospitals, is fraught with too many shortcomings. Some of which have been mentioned above.

Proposed militaristic medical strategy

 Detect and attack early when the enemy is weak and vulnerable.

 Detecting the enemy early in the period the virus is replicating: The proposed strategy is not to wait for the symptoms to develop to test for the virus. Rather, to detect the virus early using test kits, which make results available to medical practitioners quickly, so then can identify those infected with the COVID-19.

 Attacking the enemy early: Overwhelm the still fewer-in-number viruses, before they replicate to become dangerous and invincible by:

*   Prescribing, to those identified to have been infected with the COVID-19, antiviral agents that inhibit virus replications (FDA-approved drugs, fluids with antibodies, anti-viral herbs, or other immune boosters, each with no or tolerable side-effects).

*    Monitoring the viral load in the infected person at a pre-determined time interval.

*   Quarantining those deemed to be infectious.

Anticipated results following the implementation of the proposed militaristic medical strategy:

The proposed strategy is more pro-active than the current passive strategy of flattening the curve and waiting for the virus to disappear slowly and, hopefully, not to reappear.

In the proposed strategy, fewer people may develop symptoms. Fewer may cough. Fewer infections, fewer hospitalizations, and fewer deaths may occur.

The effective drugs from this strategy could also be used as prophylactic (for preventions) drugs during another COVID-19 season, or for travelling to high-risk areas of a country or of the world.

 The Worst-Case Scenario: Can't be any worse than the current strategy, except for the extra costs for testing more people and that of the prescription drugs, and their side-effects.

The Best-Case Scenario: COVID-19 pandemic is controlled sooner. Hospitals are not overwhelmed. Businesses open sooner. Kids return to schools. Parents return to work. The stock market rebounds.

 Runners return to running from sitting down. And I return to my goal of finishing all six majors in one calendar year.

All well, before another version of the virus appears to do another round of world-wide carnage. But for which the smart world should be better prepared, if the lessons learnt from the current one are not forgotten.

(Note: The proposed strategy is not a substitute for, rather a complement to, other preventive methods in place in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines would be preferable, but their developments may take 12 to 18 months.)

The writer, a former BUET Lecturer; Masters in BioChE and PhD in ChE (both from University of Waterloo, Canada), is the co-inventor of a US-patented method for managing Type 2 Diabetes

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