Infectious diseases causing “demics” are strange and often unpredictable. Some lay waste to an area and then suddenly disappear, sometimes for years, sometimes forever. Some pop up at random in widely distant and variant geographic locales then go quietly only to show up somewhere else. Others spread like wildfire to encompass the globe and wreak havoc.
So what are the factors a pathogen needs to run a successful pandemic?
How lethal a pathogen is helps determine its success.
Take Ebola, with an average of around 50% lethality, the mere mention of it causes people to flee to a non-endemic area. The infected are incapacitated fast, die rapidly, and thus are not able to effectively spread the disease.
Ebola is very infectious but held back by being too fast acting and deadly. It would be more effective if it mutated to a milder form making spread easier. In essence, what makes it terribly deadly also makes it less effective.
How good is it at spreading?
The most effective way to infect humans is to be airborne and have the ability to survive on skin and surfaces. Add in viral shedding before and after symptom onset as well as asymptomatic carriers and you have the ability to effectively find new hosts.
How difficult it is to contain an outbreak?
With global travel so prevalent in todays society pathogens that aren’t particularly deadly and are good at spreading have no problem subverting efforts of containment.
How susceptible is it to vaccines?
Influenza constantly mutates making vaccine effectiveness highly variable. It is a best guess that is planned out months in advance, achieving an influenza vaccine that is 50% effective is considered successful. There have been at least five mutations of Covid-19 that make it more infective but despite these mutations the vaccine is still projected to be effective.
So the key to a successful pandemic is that the pathogen doesn’t kill too well, spreads easily so it can circulate widely, and mutates around vaccines.
Let’s take a look at a few well known pathogens.
Highly lethal with rapid onset making it difficult to spread combined with swift and coordinated response to contain, no vaccine as of yet.
Highly contagious, 30% mortality, susceptible to vaccines, global travel not as established as it is now. Eradicated via aggressive global vaccination and rapid containment response via “ring vaccination” (isolating cases and vaccinating all people in that area).
Low mortality rate at 0.1%, easily spread, Host can spread virus 1-2 days prior to symptom onset and up to a week after recovery. This along with global travel and its ability to mutate make it difficult to contain and vaccinate against.
Average to low infectivity with 10% mortality, spread globally with over 8000 cases. Considered contained in humans due to strong global cooperation, but still exists in animals. No vaccine but CDC has developed prototype.
Less infective, 2500 cases, 34% mortality, still popping up in humans but, so far, rapidly contained. No vaccine.
Improved on the coronavirus strategy by being more infections with a lower mortality of 2-3% but much more deadly than influenza, not to mention asymptomatic carriers. Luckily the development of mRNA vaccine technology has allowed rapid and highly effective vaccine development.
Covid-19 far outpaces SARS and MERS in total number of deaths because of this lower mortality rate and higher infectivity.
All three are zoonotic, meaning they jumped from animals to humans, and all appeared at the turn of century.
Alarmingly scientists estimate there are over 800,000 unidentified pathogens in animals that have the potential to jump to humans, so the struggle is real. Don’t be surprised as more of these pop up in the future.
What can be done?
Politics aside, The WHO and CDC continue to develop strategies to handle pandemics.
Vaccine development is evolving rapidly and has been shown to be safe and effective.
Hypervigilance with distancing, masks, hygiene, and public vaccination buy-in makes these pathogens less likely to spread but it’s no guarantee that they won’t.
Avoid vices that are known to be unhealthy, stay well hydrated, exercise, and don’t forget about addressing your overall wellness.
Vaccines aside, modern western medicine has developed some pharmaceuticals that can reduce symptoms such as antivirals and monoclonal antibody treatment, but in reality there are not many options out there once you are sick.
Vitamins, minerals, and plant-based alternatives do show some promise at protecting individuals from contracting disease and may optimize the body’s ability to resist and fight invaders. There is evidence that some help modulate the inflammatory and immune response from invasive organisms and some have shown to inhibit viral attachment and replication.
At Lig & Ceptor we developed our viral formulation based on years of clinical practice and taking a deep dive into the current available literature.
If you would like to know more check out our Resist: Viral Formula, review the ingredients and the science to understand why we choose to them in the fight against viral invaders. See "Lessons From the Covid-19 Pandemic".
It’s crazy times but stay vigilant, care for yourself and your community, and remember…What you do matters!
Laning Andrews, M.D.