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COVID-19: What to do about the global surge and why

Bertha Serwa Ayi, MD, FACP, FIDSA, MBA
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The following is a guest post by Bertha Serwa Ayi, MD, FACP, FIDSA, MBA.

America’s case load of more than 363,000 people confirmed sick with COVID-19 is about twice that of any other hard hit country such as Italy or Spain. We have seen more than 10,000 deaths. Spain has overtaken Italy as the most affected country in Europe with almost 140,000 confirmed illnesses, while Italy has lost more than 17,000 people with more than 135,000 cases. All these numbers seem to dwarf the numbers that were coming out of China. At the time they appeared astronomical. These are sad times. We need to do something different to change the status quo.

The world is used to some of these numbers but not for emerging infections like these. Every 30 seconds in the midst of this outbreak a child in sub-Saharan Africa will die from malaria. Every day somewhere in the world 3000 children die from malaria. An estimated million people die from malaria every year. Every year malaria will sicken 400 - 600 million people around the world. Every month malaria affects about 50 times the number of people that SARS-CoV-2 has infected in 3 months. Given that the majority of the world’s population has not been tested, it is possible that this COVID-19 infection may rub shoulders with malaria, and, if we do not do something different it may overtake malaria mortality. This does not even take a stretch of the imagination given that exactly 100 years ago the Spanish flu, another respiratory virus, is estimated to have taken the lives of 50 million people.

On March 30, Dr. Daniel Lucey wrote a post here urging that an immediate and sustained international response may be what is needed to stop this epidemic in its tracks. He noted that in September 2018 the Ebola epidemic called for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting. Given the dismal state of this pandemic, we are in sore need of another one. This time it will be a virtual meeting. One of the issues that will need to be discussed besides a coordinated effort to end this pandemic should include food security around the world. This will be important for several countries in sub-Saharan Africa where people live from hand-to-mouth. Absence of its support will come and bite us because these communities will be the key that will also allow reentry of infections in those areas where the infection is contained. I agree with Dr. Lucey that such a collaboration is what is needed to prevent this COVID-19 pandemic from eclipsing the most destructive pandemics of history. 


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