This business has reawakened the investigator in me. And also the desire to rebut false or misleading information.
Today I was outside the Bluesberry Cafe' (where I am a partner) in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and a couple, with a grandchild, longtime customers, came by. The gentleman asked me not to use his name, but he identified himself as a clinical and radiological consultant fairly recently retired from the CDC.
He said that, as far as the disease itself, we are making too much fuss about it. This person is definitely one of those (unusual in the scientific community in the last several weeks) with confidence that as the weather gets warmer, the spread of the virus will subside as influenza viruses tend to do.
One of the reasons he adduced to make his point is the similarity in conformation to the SARS coronavirus. SARS diminished and went away by the summer, he said, and he expects COVID-19 to act similarly. However, he cautioned that he could be mistaken.
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that this expectation may be incorrect, because the virus has already migrated to places that are both hotter and more humid than Wuhan, China (Brazil and Singapore would be examples), and it does not show signs of slowing or ceasing to infect. Continuing results from India, with people tightly packed together in urban areas, might be an indication of the ease of contagion as the winter turns to spring and then summer.
Type S was the first to emerge, and it is the less virulent of the two. Type S, the milder of the two strains, is the one that has reached our shores (though there is no proof that Type L has not also contributed to the pandemic internationally, particularly in hard-hit Italy).
Type S is the one that certain politicians, and most of the scientists, say we will survive as a population, though it is still a threat to the lives of the old and underlyingly sick. Type L was the strain responsible for most of the death and contagion characterizing the first stages of the Wuhan outbreak.
Alexander McNamara, editor of the online scientific magazine BBC Science Focus, succinctly delineates the difference, and also notes that the scientific community in China has given COVID-19 a new name:
Scientists in China claim to have identified two main strains of the coronavirus that is circulating in humans, indicating that the virus is mutating.
Researchers at Peking University's School of Life Sciences and the Institute Pasteur of Shanghai say the COVID-19 virus, which has since been renamed SARS-CoV2, has evolved into two major lineages, known as "L" and "S" types. Seventy per cent of the cases from the early outbreak, researchers said, have resulted from the newer, more aggressive L Type. But its frequency decreased from early January, which the researchers attributed to human intervention.
The older, "ancestral" S type strain, meanwhile, is continuing to infect new patients, which experts believe could be because it is less severe, meaning people carry it for longer before going to the hospital, increasing the risk of passing it on.
However, the most disturbing thing I have heard during this entire coronavirus-driven crisis was what the retired CDC man said about the two strains. Our friend suggested that the deadly Type L mutation might have been engineered.