Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Corona in Freiburg

Slowly I get the nomenclature of the Coronavirus right. SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrom Corona Virus 2) is the name of the virus. As for number one, we had an outbreak known as SARS in China and on a small scale around the globe in 2002/2003. Covid-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019) is the name of the disease where the first cases were observed in December 2019 in the Chinese town of Wuhan.

At present, SARS-CoV-2 is spreading in South Baden. There are eleven diagnosed cases of Covid-19 in Freiburg and eleven in its surroundings. What counts more is that, according to the Robert-Koch-Institute (RKI) neighboring South Alsace, now is a risk area. Thousands of people from France working in southern Baden and Basel cross the Rhine River daily.

Yesterday, Freiburg's crisis unit called off all public and private events with more than 1000 people until March 31. Yesterday night a pop concert was canceled on short notice. The SC Freiburg will play soccer at an empty Dreisam stadium as a" ghost game," and the popular Freiburg marathon with record participation this year is called off.

However, Freiburg's municipal theater with "only" 860 seats will continue to perform although yesterday Red Baron could not buy a ticket but only got a reservation for Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" for March 22. I shall be informed in due time by email whether the virus is sufficiently tame by then to allow the performance of "Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung."

Berlin's RKI informs daily about the spread of the disease in Germany, recommends measures to be taken, and reports new scientific findings. All actions proposed and taken serve the purpose of slowing down the spread of the pandemic, so our hospitals do not become overloaded.

I learned that the endless discussions about the mortality rate of Covid-19 (3 or 0.3% ?) are pointless at this time because the basis for the statistics is ill-defined. Some - mostly children and young people - show only mild or no symptoms when infected and are not counted. Undetected, these people are likely to spread the virus further without knowing. Older people catching the virus could become severely ill and tend to develop pneumonia. This is because SARS-CoV-2 perturbs the immune system of the lung, so intruding bacteria can easily infect the weakened tissue. The risk of dying from Covid-19 is more than 25% for old white men over 80. Red Baron is warned, but you may or should instead think of future American Presidents.

Professor Drosten in his lab at the Charité (©ARD)
Is there no silver lining on the horizon? Virologist Professor Christian Drosten who developed the PCR* fragment analysis method on swabs taken in the throat area, said that this diagnosis tool is 100% sure. As a scientist, he competently and calmly talks about recent findings and new developments on SARS-CoV-2 in a daily podcast.
*Polymerase Chain Reaction

Drosten was fast, "Within a week he had produced the test."
He and his colleagues at Berlin's Charité found that the virus replicates not only in the lung but in the throat area as well. They further detected the virus in a high concentration in feces of infected persons, but those viruses are no longer contagious. Likewise, swabs taken from the lungs of healed patients still contain the virus, but these are unable to proliferate. So persons showing no longer any symptoms of Covid-19 may leave those precious hospital beds already after one week and continue their healing process at home. Meanwhile, the research for effective vaccination against the virus goes on in labs worldwide.

How long will the pandemic last? Inshallah.

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