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The World Health Organization (WHO) has chosen the name COVID-19 for the deadly coronavirus that came into existence in the last few months of 2019. They chose it to make the name as inoffensive as possible to any identifiable group. However, they made a name that is difficult to type because of the mix of capitals and numbers, and too long to pronounce when talking casually. Thus the title of this post included two words, Covid and Coronavirus, one of which may become the more popular name and more used by the public.

Illustrated below is a new way of looking at the Coronavirus disease by comparing it to the Ebola disease that struck West Africa in 2014. This chart plots the rate of increase of Ebola virus load and corresponding symptoms on a logarithmic scale. It is generalized, but the serial order of the progression and timing of the disease is about right. It is useful because Ebola is similar to the Coronavirus in the progression of symptoms. It appears the infectivity of Coronavirus is much greater at a lower level of virus load, and/or it replicates more rapidly. Spend some time with the chart to see and appreciate its implications.

Ebola chart for timing progression of symptoms and contagion

Time in days for Ebola to manifest symptoms and become infectious.

The bottom left side of the chart above is a theoretical approximation of what might happen if the human body had no defenses against the invading microbes. But it does have defenses that usually do cope with the lower levels of infection. It may take 10,000 viruses, near the middle of the chart, at a single site to overcome the natural defenses of a normally healthy person and start the runaway disease process. For a person in poor health and with a feeble immune system, it would take far fewer. It seems unlikely that a human being could lose a battle with a single virus, but why take the chance.

Yesterday’s post mentioned that Ebola had approximately a doubling time of infections of about a month, but the doubling time for Coronavirus was only four days. The infection rate of Coronavirus is about seven times faster than Ebola, but the first sign of sickness unto death is approximately the same, ten to fifteen days. Of course, most people won’t die, and those over seventy years old are at most risk.

There are many ways the viruses can move from one person to another, but as they are all viruses they probably have similar modes of transferring from one person to another, and we can use similar ways of preventing their spread. Simply being on another continent seems to be the only foolproof way of avoiding this disease, but only Antarctica is now in that happy condition.

Closer to our personal living space we must create as much clean distance as possible between us and infected people. Staying home as much as possible after the virus comes to town, and when meeting acquaintances on the street to jokingly move on from the popular body hug on to and beyond the Ebola elbow bump, and to the Coronavirus hands out front in a comic push away to arm’s length greeting, without actually touching them of course. Make it as friendly as possible, but keep your physical distance. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow keeps creeping in at its petty pace, bringing new diseases, and it brings them to us in the form of friendly people.