Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University

“We have no choice but to endure it” IKBFU immunologist answered frequently asked coronavirus-related questions

“We have no choice but to endure it” IKBFU immunologist answered frequently asked coronavirus-related questions
27 March 2020

The coronavirus has been making the news for quite a while already. The world has united to counter the disease and new precaution measures are being developed on a daily basis. All these will help to counter the infection and end the pandemic. Andrey Goncharov, Deputy Director for Science of the IKBFU Medical Institute, PhD in Medicine and a member of the Scientific Union for Immunologists answered questions.


—   Doctor Goncharov, should people be scared of the virus? Is it actually more dangerous than flu?

 —   There is nothing to be scared of. The coronavirus type of infections has been known for decades. For the mankind’s evolution, we’ve been living with viruses the same as with bacteria. If this “pandemic” was to happen 30-40 years ago we wouldn’t even notice it, because today there are new diagnostics techniques and methods, which allowed us to detect it in the first place. Yes, there are patients dying of the infection, but there are not that many cases. In fact, one has twice more chances to catch the flu than the coronavirus. We have no choice but to endure it.

— What serious complications can a person who has had this infection have?

 —   You probably know that the flu is not a problem, but its complications are something one should be afraid of. And usually those complications are of bacterial nature. But to counter bacteria we have various antibiotics, methods and approaches which make us ready to face it. Complications may result in pneumonia, pericarditis, bronchitis, etc. Sometimes truly scaring things may occur, sepsis, for instance. Things happen, but usually people have nothing scarier than pneumonia. Unfortunately, many bacteria today are resistant to antibiotics. And this is a problem. Also after a person has suffered a virus infection, his or her immune system is weakened, which may be an open gate for another disease.

 —   Is it true that the coronavirus is dangerous for children?

—   No, it is not. Though children do get sick sometimes and their immune system is not yet completely formed, they seem to be more resistant to the virus. Because of the fact they are growing, their bodies react strongly against to virus thus curing it without any symptoms.

— So children, in fact, may only be carriers?

— Absolutely. 

—  May a person with high immunity resistance avoid the virus? Is this person a carrier then?

 —Yes, it is possible. In approximately 70% of cases, there are no symptoms but there is the disease. So, potentially, a non-infected person may be a carrier. 

—   People older than 60 are at risk. What precaution measures are the best for those people?

— We have one precautionary measure for everyone - it is necessary to minimize the contacts, wash your hands, and try to avoid touching surfaces that other people might’ve touched before you. If we observe how the epidemic process looks like, then we will see that it consists of three main links — the source of infection, transmission mechanisms, and the susceptible organism. And there is no vaccine yet. This means that we, alas, cannot yet create a layer of vaccinated persons. On the source of infection, as well as on the transmission mechanisms, we can act only by isolation. Therefore, the measures taken by the country's leadership are justified.

- How long does it take to create a vaccine?

 - Vaccines have already been created in Russia, China, in South Korea, in the USA, everywhere virologists are working on this. The question is different - most of the time is spent on clinical trials. You will not inject yourself with an unknown drug, especially since it is prohibited. Vaccines must undergo preclinical trials, the first, second and third stages of clinical trials. With all the acceleration and financial resources, it will take at least six months - this is just the perfect time. But in general this is a fairly time-taking process. I think there will be such a vaccine by the next epidemic boom. Maybe people will think about the importance of vaccination. No one has cancelled the cross-action of the vaccine - that is, vaccinating against one type of flu, you can reduce the risk of contracting another variant of the strain. Maybe we can defeat the anti-vaccination movement.

 - How long will the active period of increase in incidence last?

 - It depends on what measures are being taken in a particular state. Firstly, these are quarantine measures and self-isolation. Secondly, the sun is detrimental to coronavirus, influenza infection, and tuberculosis. As the temperature rises, its stability in the external environment will decrease. In my opinion, in the presence of serious quarantine measures and changes in the ambient temperature, this whole situation with the number of infected people will improve.

 - Immunostimulating drugs. Will they save from the coronavirus?

 - People just do not understand how the immune system works. This is a big Russian dream of a big, albeit tasteless pill that will save everyone. The immune system must be mobile, adequately respond to all external intrusions. If you have no signs of primary or secondary immunodeficiency, why do you need to get into your immune system that you can unbalance? You always need competent advice from a doctor. I understand that you always want to do something. Therefore, my advice to you is to engage in extra immune therapy that will help you. To do this, you need a to sleep well, move a lot, do moderate physical activity, expose yourself to the sun, and have a balanced diet, positive thoughts and then, believe me, your immune system will not need intervention. Take vitamins if you want. But no immunostimulating drugs should be taken. Take them only as prescribed by a doctor.


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