Another week goes by, as we seem to settle into this COVID-19 pandemic. Like 9/11 things may never be the same once this has passed. Who would have ever thought you would have to take off your shoes and be scanned before boarding an aircraft before 2001? Or carry on a bottle of water? We will get through COVID-19, but it will be a little different when we reach the other side and find the new normal. Perhaps we will make lemonade from lemons and be better off for the next time.
“AIDS will be resolved one day, I’m confident of this, but society will always face epidemics to replace it.”
We have always had epidemics. Whether it be Tuberculosis, Syphilis, SARS, Leprosy, Cholera, and the list goes on. What we don’t know is what group or groups will be affected next. With AIDS/HIV in the 1980s, it was the LGBTQ community. COVID-19 may have more serious consequences for the African American population. It’s a moving target!
Staying home this weekend, I had some time on my hands. I came across some old files hidden away. I found some slides I made from the 1980’s. Back then, I made my own slides using my 35mm camera. I would take pictures of the information that I typed on a piece of paper and then took the film to the drug store to get it processed into slides. Wow, how things have changed! I came across a slide I made years ago titled “Mathematics of Disease”. I do believe this equation is timeless, and certainly holds true today. Let me explain the picture above detailing this equation:
Health (or lack of)
Susceptibility (the numerator) --
The likelihood or liability to be influenced or harmed by a particular thing.
Susceptibility increases when people don’t take care of themselves: medical problems not optimally controlled, no exercise, eating poorly, smoking, poor sleep, lack of barriers or increased exposure to pathogens, stress, and so on. Each factor synergistically increases susceptibility to disease.
The ability to not be affected by something, especially adversely.
Resistance is increased with vaccinations, exercise, eating nutritiously, positive mental attitude, getting enough sleep, and general measures to stay healthy. Resistance is reduced with a compromised immune system, co-infections, malignancies, poor health, general inflammation, sleep deprivation, and stress.
Environmental Factors =
Any factor (living or non-living) that influences living organisms.
Prevalence of a germ (COVID-19) in the population is certainly the first environmental factor that comes to mind. Other factors include overcrowding, the air we breathe, aging, water pollution, cleanliness, co-existing diseases, and environmental stress to name a few.
It’s not one particular item in this equation that defines health or lack of it, but many. You should do what you can do for each part of the equation to assist yourself in staying well. Wear facial coverings. Keep your distance when around others. Wash your hands often. Stay active. Do some deep breathing. Eat better. Reduce your stress loads in ways you can. Each and every positive action you take to increase your resistance will shift the equation in your favor. Each and every action you take to decrease your susceptibility will help keep you healthy. COVID-19 testing is great; however, you can test negative on a Monday and turn positive on Tuesday. This test is useful for diagnosing current COVID-19, but not useful in predicting future infections.
When the antibody is approved, after demonstrating the right specificity and sensitivity of the test, that may be useful to reduce susceptibility and environmental factors by knowing who is immune and who isn’t. There is no one test or action a person can take to totally eliminate risk. This is true for everything we do from taking a walk to sky diving. It’s a balancing act with decisions made by each individual, hopefully with a good data base for guidance, in making the best decision for yourself.
We used to call it “Universal Precautions.” That’s what the medical professional would do by treating every person the same way regardless of knowing if they had a communicable disease or not. The provider would protect themselves as if everyone they came in contact with was infectious. The practice of universal precautions still applies. That’s what risk reduction is about. Whether it be HIV, STD’s, colds, coughs, staph infections, or anything else, appropriate preventive protections should be put in place all the time. It’s your responsibility to be knowledgeable. The mathematics of disease will change as information evolves and this is occurring at a rapid pace. What we think is true today may not be true tomorrow. Vaccines will maximize resistance. Hopefully an effective one for the COVID-19 virus will be available as soon as possible. Vaccines reduce susceptibility and environmental factors by increasing resistance. None of these measures, by itself, will be the solution; however, a combination of them most likely will.
As for the Be Well Medical Center, I’m proud to work with a group of medical heroes. We come to work everyday with kindness, gentility, patience, compassion, and smiles. My staff puts themselves at risk everyday and are helping the lives of our patients. Evening clinics are still suspended although we are extending back our daytime clinic hours to 5 P.M. beginning Monday, April 27. Patients are being screened at the front door for COVID-19 symptoms and temperature. We appreciate everyone arriving with their own facial covers. We wish you well, and are here for you during these difficult times!
To Your Good Health…We Remain!