Doctor: Virus not over, keep social distancing

By JON ALVERSON JALVERSON@DDTONLINE.COM,

Dr. Satwinder Singh has spent his life’s work in epidemiology.

After his undergraduate studies in home country of India, he did further studies in Brooklyn, New York and in New Mexico. He’s been in the Delta working at Delta Regional Medical Center treating diseases for the past 16 years.

In all those years, he’s never seen a virus like COVID-19, he said.

“It’s the virus without borders,” Singh said.

While other coronavirus like MERS, SARS or the seasonal flu have known treatments, developed vaccines and follow a certain path, this current virus has none of these characteristics.

“Inlfuenza A and B kills thousands every year, but there is a treatment and a vaccine,” Singh said. “There is neither for this.”

In time both could be developed, and, Singh said, more time is what doctors need to study the effects of the virus.

In many viruses, antibodies prevent reinfection by the same virus in a patient, but that may not be the case with COVID-19, Singh said. The virus is also presenting in many different forms.

When outbreaks first began, the Center for Disease Control issued a list of symptoms. It was confined to fever, cough, shortness of breath or other respiratory ailments. The disease is now also showing as rashes or other skin irritations, Singh said.

“We just don’t know enough to know what the symptoms are,” he said.

To gain time to study the virus and its effects, Singh recommends continued social distance, self-isolation and wearing a face mask or cloth. The face masks or cloths should be used when going into public.

“We learned how to handle tuberculosis and plague because of our past actions,” Singh said. “We need more time to learn about this virus.”

While Singh said there is more time in isolation and social distancing needed, he also said more patients have recovered than have died.

Which is especially true in Washington County, where only three patients have died as of Friday morning compared to 16 in Leflore County and six in Bolivar County.

Of those deaths, an overwhelming majority are African-American. All the deaths in Leflore and Washington counties have been African-American and only one death in Bolivar County was not.

The virus has no differing affects based on genetics, Singh said, but is especially hard on patients who have pre-existing conditions.

While the virus does attack those compromised immune systems, it doesn’t follow outbreak patterns like the seasonal influenza.

That may be attributed to the differing policies set forth by states.

In Sweden, the country has not followed the same lockdown procedures as other countries but hasn’t had an appreciably higher mortality rate than countries.

The virus came to Sweden later than other countries and, Singh said, the Swedes already live in a state of semi-isolation.

“They trust their government there,” Singh said. “They are more likely to follow the rules.”

While Sweden may not be as dense as other countries, Singh’s home of India has one of the most-dense populations in the world, but isn’t seeing a high infection rate.

“The country went into lockdown,” Sing said. “They even have policemen delivering food to the homes.”

Singh said the key to containing the virus is more testing, social distancing and time.

“Keep social distancing,” Singh said. “Get more tests done. If we know who is positive, we can isolate them.”