22 February 2024
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Covid-19: The gift that keeps on giving

Dr Ross Walker
19 July 2022

Prior to the last few months, I had been quite optimistic about the potential for this current pandemic to fizzle out. The last major pandemic i.e. the Spanish flu in 1918, lasted for about two years after killing somewhere between 50-100 million people. Unfortunately, this current pandemic doesn’t appear to be fizzling out and although not as deadly as the Spanish Flu, it has many unprecedented features that render future predictions close to impossible.

Although coronaviruses have been around for many years, typically as a variant of the common cold, with the most severe forms in the past being SARS and MERS, none have displayed the devastation of this current virus, both on a global health scale but also to the detriment of the management of many other illnesses and no doubt, the economy.

At the time of writing this article, we are approaching 6.4 million deaths worldwide and with the emergence of the latest variants of Omicron, this does not appear to be slowing down. I can't imagine how many more deaths and hospitalisations the world may have experienced had we not had the rapid development of vaccines, effective antivirals such as Molnupiravir and Paxlovid, targeted antibody therapies, along with a number of other treatments and expert intensive care management (none of which was available during the Spanish Flu epidemic). It is also important to mention the increasing herd immunity from the number of worldwide cases and vaccinations.

The major variant in Australia now is Omicron BA.5. In India, an even newer variant BA.2.75 is running rife through the community. These particular variants seemingly don't care whether you’ve been vaccinated or have had a prior Covid-19 infection.

My wife and I are now recovering from our first dose of Covid caused by BA.5, both of us having had four vaccines and no prior infections. Yet, it's still very clear that although prior infections or vaccinations do not stop you from developing the illness they still reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death by about 90%.

Covid typically induces severe disease in the elderly, the sick and immunocompromised, as well as the obese. However, it can also affect younger, seemingly healthy individuals, typically those who have an underlying genetic abnormality that affects the way they react to particular viruses.

The important message is if you have not had a booster shot or a fourth vaccination, the case numbers in Australia are rapidly increasing and you don’t want to put yourself at risk by not being protected.

If you are over 70, once you have tested positive for Covid with either a RAT or a PCR, these effective anti-viral agents should be commenced as soon as possible and certainly within five days of the confirmed diagnosis. If you are younger than 70 but have significant comorbid conditions you will also qualify for the anti-viral agents.

This virus is unprecedented and no one knows if, or when it will fizzle out. It is important that we are all protected and if you are diagnosed with Covid, seek early medical attention and therapy.

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