Medical students are often surprised to learn that many of the most dangerous illnesses do not actually harm humans very much. Instead, it is the human body that often reacts far too strongly to a perceived threat, and it is that response that puts us in real danger. Such is the case with allergies, autoimmune diseases, and the Wuhan Virus

COVID-19 and national guard in the streets: which is the threat?

According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), sepsis kills nearly 270,000 people in the US each year. Only heart disease and cancer are responsible for more deaths than sepsis. Even in many cancer cases, radiation and chemotherapy are what cause the patient to suffer most.

“Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body’s response to an infection. The body normally releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight an infection. Sepsis occurs when the body’s response to these chemicals is out of balance, triggering changes that can damage multiple organ systems.” – Mayo Clinic

Perpetuating panic

Within a few weeks of the Chinese-borne virus spreading to other nations, politicians in the US and across the globe have reacted to the flu-like virus by shutting down economies, forcing people to stay at home, and suspending civil liberties. While this article was being written, the DOJ asked congress to allow them to suspend habeas corpus. Along with the media perpetuating the doomsday narrative, this led people to panic-buy and hoard essential products, food, and medication. Presumably, people who can no longer access these critical items, food, and medication will suffer and possibly die. As with our immune system, THIS is the dangerous part. Not the virus, which as of this writing has killed just over 300 people in the US, a tiny fraction of the flu’s 80,000 death toll last year in the US. The total deaths in the world due to COVID-19 now stands at around 12,000 at the time of this writing. As all medical professionals already know, nearly all of those deaths involve patients with serious co-morbidities and/or advanced age. Yet, the media and politicians are reacting more aggressively to this novel virus than they have to any emergency in US history, including Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and perhaps even the World Wars. The US economy has all but shut down, American workers are being laid off like never before, and the stock market is crashing so hard that trading has been stopped in the middle of trading hours multiple times in the past few days. NOW, we have a true crisis on our hands. 

As of this writing, 48 states and the federal government have declared a state of emergency and/or a shelter-in-place order (which is somewhere between a ‘curfew’ and total martial law). President Trump has also invoked the emergency defense production act, essentially authorizing himself to seize private companies and compel them to produce whatever he commands. And the politicians’ crackdowns on civil liberties are only increasing with each day.

Healthcare overwhelmed

Due to the hysteria caused by the media, politicians and hospitals throughout the US have been pressured to treat the Chinese virus as if it were Ebola multiplied by Tuberculosis. As a result, healthcare staff began using many more masks, gloves, and gowns than normal. Additionally, civilians began buying as much personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizer as they could. Sensing the inevitable shortage, doctors and nurses began taking home and stockpiling as much PPE as they could from their workplaces, exacerbating the shortage even further. Paramedics, nurses, and doctors are now begging their communities to donate N95 masks and other PPE to their workplaces because they are  literally running out – and they are the ones who have to treat the patients who are critically ill from COVID-19. Again, it is the OVERRACTION that has caused the crisis. 

Adding to the healthcare crisis, any doctor, PA, NP, nurse, paramedic, or EMT who believes that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 is being quarantined for two weeks. This means that an already overworked and overwhelmed medical workforce is shrinking by the day. And it was just a few weeks ago that protectionist lawmakers sought to make it more difficult for New Hampshire employers to hire paramedics who are already licensed in other states and qualified to work in our state. 

As with the shortage of healthcare providers, food, toilet paper, and medications are running out due to panic buying and hoarding. Now that a promising study has been released, implying that Hydroxychloroquine mixed with Azithromycin could cure the virus, we should expect those medications to be bought by overreacting people and doctors throughout the world. 

A lesson from allergies

When a person suffers from a severe allergy, it is not truly the allergy that hurts them; it’s the body’s wildly overblown response to what it considers to be a threat. This tremendously powerful response includes the release of a substance called ‘histamine’. This substance is thought by the body to be a defensive mechanism, because it causes blood vessels to dilate, which allows more blood flow to and from the area. The histamine causes far too much vasodilation, causing the vessels to expand (dilate) so much that they become so wide and so thin that blood/fluid leaks out of them, pouring into the tissue. The body loses so much fluid that the victim goes into hypovolemic shock, plummeting their blood pressure, which can then be lethal. Making matters worse, histamine also causes all of the airways (the trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles) to progressively constrict, ultimately closing off the airways completely. It is very unfortunate, but sometimes the body reacts so strongly to a minor threat that the reaction itself is what does the most damage.

As of Sunday March 22nd, the virus has been in the US for at least two months and it has killed just over 300 people. Considering that over 330,000,000 people live in the US, this is a negligible (fewer than 0.0001%) number of deaths. Choking kills more than 10 times that amount of people each year in the US. A likely cure is already FDA approved, affordable, and widely available. Yet, every US state and the federal government are in a frenzy to wage war against the virus, and our civil liberties are taking major collateral damage. The media seems committed to causing economic collapse, which would lead to widespread poverty and death, not to mention a repeat of the 10,000 suicides caused by the 2008 recession. Americans should ask themselves which is worse, a mild virus which is less than 1% as lethal as the common flu, or the indefinite suspension of civil liberties, economic collapse, and tyranny, the likes of which we have never seen in our homeland. Much like a dangerously overblown immune reaction, the government’s response to the virus seems like it will present the far greater threat than the virus itself.