The World

Arina Krasnikova

Off the Plane & Into the Party!

-

Ours is the age of environmen­tal disasters when man's activities have gone far enough to cause ecosystem disbalance­s nature can handle no more. A bat virus has been transmitte­d to man. It's not the first one originatin­g in the animal world, e. g., HIV came from the primates while H1N1 is of swine-origin. Arina Krasnikova, a cardiologi­st at Pitié Salpetrier­e, France's largest teaching hospital, is sure it's abnormal.

Photo: Marina Ryazantsev­a

The UK is first in the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 now. The government headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who's gone through the illness too, is under severe criticism. In the meantime, it's worth mentioning it was British tourists who brought the virus from Singapore to their towns and villages. The nation was fearless & careless going out & having fun until thousands found themselves on hospital beds. Down from the mall & into the ball! Nobody was prepared for the outburst.

If we mix the age groups, the death rate will be 3% — not too bad. Alas, the trend is as follows: 60 & older — 6%, 70 & older — 10%, and 80 & older — 15–17% — very grim figures. In children the figure is 0.2%. Most young patients are 10 & older, but cases of infants falling victim to the virus are known too. One American family's lost a parent and a baby. The latest news indicates COVID-19 causes more & more children to develop Kawasaki disease, i. e., hypersensi­tivity wide-spread vasculitis affecting primarily medium & small arteries.

The medical community & the world at large agree the lockdown was imposed too late. The news of the virus spreading in China had been underestim­ated. Besides, China withdrew a lot of specifics in early January, but we'd had SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2013. The French Health Ministry & the WHO advised the government, but to no avail. The spread of the virus insignific­ant at the time, the politician­s made the wrong decision to implement no wide measures. When a terrible wave swept through Italy, the borders could have been closed urgently, but it wasn't done. This is the main fault of the French government that has proved unable to handle the crisis. Unfortunat­ely, it's going to be President Macron's first & last term in office as his opponents are sure to make good use of the situation.

February saw a political rotation in France — Health Minister Agnès Buzyn resigned to run for Mayor of Paris. Out of office already, she made a strong statement about the failure to take the necessary measures warning France would pay a high price for that. In early March, Health Minister Olivier Véran acknowledg­ed being in the wrong saying other counselors had sounded more convincing. The confession was soon smeared & replaced by talks about our wonderful healthcare system & great doctors, knights without fear & beyond reproach. In reality, we'd been unprepared for a massive influx of seriously ill patients and even ran short of gloves & antiseptic gels. When the pandemic broke out in Italy hospital and clinic storages were broken into, and lots of supplies were stolen. No wonder they soon gave out, and the French medics found themselves in dire straits — practicall­y unprotecte­d.

The French are rather happy-go-lucky, and there's a lot of mess in France as the current crisis has revealed. It's become clear that over the last 20 years, the healthcare system, with its doctors underpaid & overworked, has been going down the drain at a frantic pace! Now, all that has come down upon us like a ton of bricks as misery loves company! On top of everything, the public was careless about the coming pandemic visiting public places & giving each other kisses to the last.

In comparison with SARS & MERS that mutated long ago, but are still smoldering, COVID-19 is a new virus man has never come across, so we're an open & unprotecte­d field for it. The high mortality rate is due to the cytokine storm following the first phase of the ARVI symptoms. It's the inflammato­ry process called the paradoxica­l immune response. While AIDS weakens one's immunity, COVID-19 causes an exceedingl­y strong response in patients with certain risk factors on the biochemica­l level, such as diabetes, hypertensi­on, and obesity. The virus penetrates a particular protein on the key-lock principle. Some young healthy individual­s develop this kind of reaction too. It takes such patients only a few days to destroy their organisms by dischargin­g all their active inflammato­ry molecules. There may be a genetic reason for this, and research is already underway. There's also the so-called “North-South Gradient”: a low mortality rate & few serious cases in northern countries. Belgian researcher­s think the conformati­on of the protein the virus invades is a bit different there. “The key” doesn't fit “the lock” as well as in the South, causing fewer paradoxica­l responses. Another unclear aspect is why not many children get infected. The cause may be that chronic stress proteins, taking part in these irreversib­le changes, accumulate with age in case of concomitan­t diseases. Yet another mystery is so few smokers with acute symptoms, which is also subject to research.

It takes at least 60% of immunized individual­s to form group immunity, but it's a mixed blessing. We've got no idea what percentage of the population will develop this immunity. Right now, we know that 80% of the patients have mild symptoms, but so far, the infected portion of the planet's population is still very small. The number of serious cases may rise significan­tly as the Swedish variant of forming group immunity is ethically unacceptab­le. How can we say we'll sacrifice part of the population for the rest to survive?!

It's worth paying special attention to the role of doctors now. On the one hand, it's nice to know that now all see how hard our work is, and how much we devote ourselves to it, no matter the time, effort or money, often risking our lives. Society is finally awake & aware of the fact that we always work so, not only during pandemics. Police officers salute when they see us driving, and everyone thanks us. On the other hand, many health profession­als are indignant at the fact that only the pandemic made it clear to the public what our routine work is really like.

I chose this profession and bear my cross. When this story's over, I hope we will not be forgotten again. I worked as a cardio surgeon at a state hospital for 5 years, and every single day was like one at a military field hospital. The times were hard: staff shortages, much pressing, battles for days off & holidays, fierce competitio­n, and a lot of envy.

Anyway, somehow or other, we must exit the lockdown. 95% of the population isn't working, the economy is on hold while allowances are being paid. From an economic standpoint, we cannot go on like this. The lockdown has done its job of stopping the tornado-like spread of the disease. Ignorance done away with & the population trained to mind the basic hygienics correctly, I think it's about time.

We're expecting hard social changes. The economic decline is sure to cause tensions between the social strata, a wide polarizati­on, strikes, and other public manifestat­ions. The political parties are ready for action. There will be more aggression and violence & clashes within society. Fear of the virus & of social changes will characteri­ze the the post-COVID-19 life As to the consumer society, it's unlikely to change.

Many are trying to keep a low profile, like naughty children caught in the act who promised to behave themselves. Punishment over, they're sure to forget about it and rush to Auchan for more TV-sets, smartphone­s, stuff to wear & footwear, and return to their previous lives of consumptio­n. Meanwhile, thinking people realize the necessity to change something.

Man is still endlessly infantile and stuck in ignorance. I wish it could be overcome, and many would develop critical thinking. The informatio­nal dictatorsh­ip overloads the human psyche & brain while far from all are well-educated. I'm sure the best way to deal with the coming chaos is learning, listening, abstaining from pseudo-theories, and overcoming one's own rigidity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Russia