By Enza Ferreri
How dangerous is the novel Coronavirus? Opinions differ on the matter, but this is a general question which is not even the most important issue at the moment.
The most pressing question now is: is the much-taunted and long-predicted “second wave” of this autumn based on sound evidence or is it a self-fulfilling prophecy, in the sense that, for example, the tests are not reliable, the data gathered are not accurate and, in addition, these results are presented in a way most likely to create panic? If the number of people testing positive to Covid-19 increase, could it simply be because populations are tested more aggressively than ever before?
Let’s start from a few basic, well-known facts.
The only way to fight an epidemic is to reach what is called “herd immunity”. For instance, leaving aside SARS-Cov-2, when in a school there is a certain number of children who have been vaccinated against some childhood infectious disease, even if there is a minority of non-vaccinated kids, it is thought that the latter, as well as the rest of the children, are protected, because a herd immunity has developed so, if a certain critical proportion of pupils are immunised, the rest cannot become infected and contract the illness.
I’m not entering here the controversy about vaccines which, like so many other things, can be good or bad, with benefits and drawbacks.
Herd immunity is the goal towards which a population strives to get out of an epidemic.
This herd immunity can be achieved fundamentally in two ways: spontaneously and naturally, or induced through vaccination.
Science Is Never Certain and Doctors Disagree
I’m not a doctor but I don’t think that it’s necessary to be a physician to use one’s reason and draw logical conclusions from the information we are fed and also from other crucial data, which are not so widely available.
We have for too long trusted science too much, believing that it can give us certainty and provide us with all answers.
Well, science is not like that: it is always, by its very nature, open to doubts and differing opinions.
This is part of the problem we’re going through now: what a share of the medical profession (while many other eminent epidemiologists, infective disease and public health specialists, including some from the World Health Organization, hold different, contrasting views) is saying has been taken too literally, even when it seems to have far-reaching consequences that we did not expect.
The policies of various governments of completely locking down people without symptoms (which is another way to say “healthy” because an illness manifests itself with symptoms, and the presence of a virus or other pathogen in our body is not a disease, we always carry many of them), some of whom may result positive for Sars-Cov-2 in tests which are unreliable to a high degree (some say even 90% unreliable), as they give many false negatives (not detecting the virus which is there) and many false positives (detecting a virus which is not there, or is dead), may have been praised by some, including me, although I later pointed out the unreliability of the Imperial College London’s epidemiological models on which the lockdown policies were based, at the beginning of the epidemic as a measure dictated by prudence.
But what is on the other plate of the scale? Shutting down entire economies, preventing people from going to work, with many losing their jobs, isolating the social beings which humans are, depriving them of numerous essential freedoms and making them live under the heavy oppression of terror, to the point that cases (partly related to the economic collapse) of stress, anxiety, clinical depression, mental illness and suicide have greatly increased during the Covid-19 lockdown: all this is on the other plate of the scale.
Shouldn’t governments (and we, as individuals, too) judge if it’s prudential to allow all these terrible things to occur for such a long period of time?
We’re approaching 1 year now.
It looks more like we are playing a game of dice here rather than having solid grounds to make choices which may have possibly disastrous long-term consequences, both on the economy and on the morale of our societies.
During all this Coronavirus crisis, not many official voices have talked very much about how everyone can protect himself from the Sars-Cov-2 virus by boosting the defences of his own immune system, the most powerful weapon we have when, exposed to the virus, it develops antibodies specific to it (again, it’s the principle behind vaccination, but developing our natural immunity has no negative side effects – apart from not allowing anyone to get rich by selling a vaccine – and doesn’t weaken immune defences as vaccines may do).
There are other medical approaches that I’d like to consider.
A Different Medical Approach
The more common view is that a disease and its symptoms are a bad thing, to avoid at all costs.
Nobody here wishes to dispute that an illness is, well, an ill.
But just think of this: if you put your hand on the fire (as a child might do, or an adult without thinking), you feel an agonizing pain. You may be inclined to think that such pain is a pure evil with no redeeming features.
However, that pain has an extremely important function, actually let me use another word, “purpose”: you will, or rather your reflexes will do it for you, remove your hand from the fire and avoid its damage or even destruction.
A similar mechanism takes place with pathologies: disease symptoms are a sign that something in your system is not working in the right way and the body is trying to put it right, restoring it to the previous balance. The disease is a counterbalance, a rectifying process.
The symptom may also be a warning signal, which lets you know that something you are doing should be stopped. If, after eating too much, you suffer from indigestion or a headache you’re more likely not to repeat that experience.
This view of illness seems to be true, to explain a lot and to give useful indications for behaviour.
At the moment people who are sick are ordinarily treated with drugs or even invasive surgery, rather than, whenever it’s possible, making an attempt to remove the causes that started the disorder in the first place: treating such causes involves changes in diet, exercise and other lifestyle regimes, for example. And they can often work, they did on me.
This also applies to Covid-19: most of the deaths were of people who had underlying severe or chronic conditions.
Possibly one of the main obstacles to the diffusion of this simple approach is that modern philosophy, and therefore modern science (whose origin historically was and continues to be in philosophy), has become materialistic and mechanistic, in the belief that only cause and effect, and not purpose, govern nature.
Despite the advent, in the early 20th century, of quantum mechanics with its uncertainty principle formulated by physicist Werner Heisenberg, stating that we cannot determine at the same time both the position and the velocity of an electron (or photon) and thus strongly conflicting with the principle of causality which is the foundation of determinism and therefore materialism, the naturalistic (materialistic) view that purpose plays no part in nature is still held. The atheist dogma prejudice is too strong. Purpose would presuppose a will, the intention of a mind, something beyond pure matter.
So now we can see how the idea that disease has the function to re-establish health is too close to the teleological view of nature involving purpose for atheistically-indoctrinated minds, and is too easily discarded although it’s very likely to be the way forward.