This information about VIRAL LOAD was passed on by some medical colleagues, currently fighting on our behalf, is the key to how coronavirus affects each person. I found it helpful in explaining some of the issues we are now faced with and good reason to have as little physical contact with as few people as possible. It also gives a clue how to manage the virus. Perhaps the government could have explained this earlier.
VIRAL LOAD, why is this so important?
With this particular virus, the amount in your blood at first infection directly relates to the severity of the illness you will suffer. This isn’t unusual – HIV management is all about reducing viral load to keep people alive longer. BUT it is very important in COVID-19.
If you are in a pub, religious building or entertainment venue with 200 or more people and a large number do not have symptoms, but are shedding, breathing in lots of droplets per minute and absorbing a high load of the virus. Then you will likely become ill over the next 48 hours. Three days later you may wonder why you struggle to breathe, then end up in hospital. Perhaps you may have thought you are young and healthy, not a problem, WRONG!
Fortunately, but unfortunately, because the elderly are isolating quite well, the initial UK data suggests that all age groups above 20 are almost equally represented in ICU’s in England. Most cases are in London at present but the wave is moving outwards.
This means that being under 60, fit and well doesn’t seem to be as protective as we thought. Why? VIRAL LOAD.
This may be skewed simply by the fact that too many Londoners didn’t do as asked and congregated in large numbers in confined spaces, receiving a large initial viral load. They then, went home and infected their wider families. Which is why London is probably overwhelmed. We need to shut everything down to save all of the UK. The rest of the country is roughly one week behind London.
How does the Viral Load affect us?
If I sit with one person and catch the virus, I receive a small viral load. My immune system reacts and starts to fight it, hopefully by the time the virus begins replicating, I am ready to kill it.
No medicines will help this process meaningfully, hence no “cure” for the virus as yet. All the hospital can do is support you with a ventilator until you immune system plays catch up.
I sit in a room with 6 people, all shedding, now I receive six times the dose of the virus. The rise in viral load is faster than my immune system can cope, it is overrun. I then become critically ill and require specialist medical treatment and support to deal with it. Or I could have stayed at home and been OK after a few days.
If you are a large family group, remember that by being ill and in the same room, you will make each other ill or “more ill”. If you do get sick, isolate yourself to one room and stay there. Don’t all sit in one room coughing. This will increase the viral load for everyone reaching the survival rate.
A family of six people may produce double the amount of droplets as a family of three in the same space, mathematics is important!
If one of you is symptomatic, assume you are all shedding and make sure you keep some space between you all.
Parents are getting it from their kids because no parent is going to stop comforting their child (nor should they) so the parent gets a big hit as well as the child. This cannot be helped.
Please keep washing your hands, even if you don’t venture out wash hands after opening envelopes or packages, food shopping etc. If you go out, leave shoes at the door or carry them through house and wash the soles.
This virus is encased in lipid (fat) which dissolves in soapy water or alcohol and destroys it. The virus cannot pierce the skin, but will get in through nose, mouth and eyes.
REMEMBER: Think about VIRAL LOAD
It could save lives.