I mentioned elsewhere that MIT is offering a free online course for anyone interested in learning more about Covid-19 and SARS-CoV-2. You can watch them live or grab the Youtube clips each week. The first lecture offers and excellent summary of our knowledge regarding this emergent pandemic disease as well as looking back briefly at previous viruses, such as previous coronavirus threats SARS and MERS, as well as the retrovirus HIV.
The lecture also cautions that we must remain vigilant about future viruses, which are a significant existential threat for the human race (as I wrote in New Scientist in 1997). A virus with the high mortality rate of MERS and the high transmissibility of Covid-19 would lead to a far more devastating pandemic.
You can watch the first lecture below from Bruce Walker of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, but please do sign up for the course on the MIT website linked from the video page
Here’s my basic summary of Walker’s points:
- The virus emerged at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China, it most likely was a virus from bats that passed to pangolins and back to bats and then became infectious to humans.
- Unlike previous coronavirus threats, the Covid-19 virus is highly infectious several days before symptoms appear
- Wearing a mask should be obligatory in most indoor and some outdoor settings, along with social distancing and regular handwashing. Adhering to these measures even if they “infringe” on one’s personal liberties can slow the spread of the disease
- Research is advancing faster than with any earlier disease, but we have a lot to learn
- Spot test kits could soon be with us
- People can be reinfected as their antibodies following infection dwindle in numbers as the weeks go by
- Vaccines will give stronger protection than natural immunity
- The most promising of the dozens of vaccines being tested may need three doses over six months to be effective
- Scientists are working on new drugs and repurposing old drugs as treatments for the disease, some have been successful in severe cases
- Getting the world’s billions of people vaccinated is going to be difficult to say the least