The World Health Organisation advised on 12th March, 2020 that COVID-19 is now declared a pandemic. At that time, any likelihood of matters being “Business as Usual” were dashed. With a slow response from China to notify the global community of this new disease, the first ability to break the Chain of Spread was lost. Furthermore, Australians had been on edge for months throughout the bushfire crisis, with loss of life, people losing homes, smoke extending from our fires all the way to South America, a media frenzy as well, an already alarmed population was not likely to be ready to brace for what was still yet to come.
Then just when we felt like this choking summer was going to relent, we are now in the grip of COVID-19. So, having been starved of quality air for months, only to land amid a condition that is also a burden to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. We have seen the best and worst of society, with doctors working incredibly hard to respond, to people fighting over toilet paper. While it can all appear to be doom and gloom, it is important to remain positive. The fight is only just beginning.
As per a WHO website quotes:
“…Let me be clear: describing this as a pandemic does not mean that countries should give up. The idea that countries should shift from containment to mitigation is wrong and dangerous…” – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, advised after the pandemic declaration.
Nasdaq also reports that there are medical companies that are making real headway in working towards vaccines and treatment. Heat Biologics are working in cooperation with the University of Miami to develop a “gp96 heat shock protein” that could both create a vaccine and potentially treat COVID-19. From a business perspective it was noted that the share price rose over 170% on the back of news of the collaboration.
Obviously, interest in telemedicine has been at an all time high. Personally my experience in this business has shown that the platform is hard to make financially viable for many organisations, as well as present issues surrounding ability to provide accurate diagnoses by photos or “facetime” and legalities regarding prescriptions. Nonetheless, Healthdirect (www.healthdirect.gov.au) have been instrumental in filling the void, and this will most likely lead to opening this market.
In terms of the disease itself, COVID-19 is very virulent, however mortality rate is low; in developed countries it often is less than 1%. The WHO and government medical departments have done a great job on informing the public of the best ways to contain the spread. One thing history tells us is that we should follow the advice of Dr Ghebreyesus, in remaining positive, trying to prevent spread and not simply apply mitigation factors. As viruses naturally evolve due to genetic factors, there are risks of mutation and potentially a “nastier” strain. That said, it is typical of viruses to have lower mortality rates over time, and virology to also reduce.
Viruses are like all organisms; they have instincts and they need a host (food) to continue to thrive themselves. If they kill the food source, then they will die too. If we look at the behaviours of SARS, Ebola, H1N1, Swine Flu and even bubonic plague, we can see trends in how these diseases behave. Whilst we should be at the ready for the current situation to develop, we should also be mindful that there are obvious trends that happen, and our medical response capabilities are much better than they were in 1347.
Whilst financial markets, media, the broader population and even governmental departments are amid panic, we within the medical fraternity should be looking at this with a level head. It is what we do, and it is what the public needs from us right now.
This is an opinion piece from Matthew Gregor Consulting. If you want further advice please contact the Healthcare Channel or Matthew Gregor Consulting
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