Just days into our social distancing from the dreaded SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID19 disease that it creates, the world sits on edge as we watch what has been unfolding in Italy.
As of March 19th, 2020 the death toll in Italy has soared to 2978, which is the highest death toll in Europe from the disease.
As the Italian government considers putting the country under extreme lockdown, even banning outdoor exercise, we are hearing warnings that we need to be more stringent with our social distancing measures and/or self-isolation to avoid a similar fate to that of Italy.
But is that the only thing that we can do?
Why are so many dying in Italy and for what cause?
The cases of COVID19 in the United States has reached 9415 with approximately 150 deaths.
There is reason to believe that COVID19 will become endemic to the world population much like the seasonal flu or common cold. After all, the common cold is caused by a coronavirus (which is the same family COVID19 belongs to) up to 35% of the time, and greater than 80% of all adults have been affected with the common cold.
Does this mean that we are all doomed to get COVID19 and suffer severe consequences like permanent lung damage?
Images of overwhelmed hospital workers collapsing from exhaustion and frustration, unfortunate souls attached to ventilators, countries on lockdown, where you risk fines or imprisonment for being outside: is this our future as so many suggest?
Only time will tell.
While COVID19 may be a serious threat to our health, I believe that there are other factors in play when it comes to contracting the illness and the severity of the course of illness.
Let's take a look at Italy to see what exactly is going on there.
As mentioned above, Italy has had the highest amount of deaths in Europe from COVID19 so far. Most of these deaths have been due to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) caused by COVID19 .
The Lancet, a respected medical journal, plainly states that the people who dies from ARDS due to SARS-CoV-2 would not have died otherwise.
But is this true?
The vast majority of those who died from COVID19 in Italy had comorbidities. The Italian government even released a study saying that over 99% of fatalities had underlying health issues .
Among the top 3 causes were high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
In fact, almost half of the fatalities (48%) had 3 or more illnesses!
There is also the age factor that comes into play when examining Italy's fatalities.
Italy has one of the oldest populations in Europe with 23% of it's population over the age of 65. In comparison, the US only has 16% of the population over the age of 65.
Just like other diseases, age plays a huge factor to our susceptibility.