There are no silver bullets

In the world in which we reside, a pandemic slowly burns. This pandemic has confounded front line medical practitioners, public health organizations. It has exposed a number of troubling relationships amongst governments and organizations. It has resulted in numerous pronoucements of “X may work” from medically and scientifically illiterate political leaders.

The problem is, fundamentally, there are no silver bullets. There are no magic cures.

There is no replacement for the hard work required to devise safe and effective mitigations, and hopefully preventatives such as vaccines.

Even with vaccines, if we may draw a lesson from influenza, if this is seasonal, vaccines may not be fully effective. Today the WHO put out a cautionary note to people on the possibility of re-infection. They said in short, getting COVID-19 and surviving does not guarantee that you will not be re-infected. Put another way, there is a supposition that infection confers immunity. Sort of a variant on a silver bullet. The concept of herd immunity is built upon this.

Herd immunity requires that re-infection rates are effectively zero to work. The WHO just said there is no evidence right now of the latter. There are anecdotal stories at the moment of re-infection.

Herd immunity may be a silver bullet in this case. In which case it is a fantasy at best. If this is true, and we do not know at this time whether or not that is true, then the conversation is fundamentally different about mitigation.

I’ve heard anecdotal commentary from front line medical professionals that some things work, and some things don’t. There seems to be a political dimension to Dr’s opinions on this as well. That is unfortunate. But this goes to the point of there being no silver bullet to cure this.

It is important to realize that in the vast majority of cases, there is no miracle cure, miracle preventative, miracle mitigation. At some point in time, we, collectively have to be realistic and pragmatic about all of this. We have to give the scientists the time to do the work, and not breathlessly report every pro/con for any treatment under consideration. We have to be realistic in that things mentioned or not mentioned by president Trump aren’t automatically good or bad. Like others, he has no crystal ball. No guarantee of finding a silver bullet.

What we collectively have, are many … many … dedicated scientists and medical professionals working very hard, very quickly, trying to get real knowledge extracted under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. We need to give them time to work. We need to give them space to work. We need to clear the pathways to enable them to work.

We all have skin in this game. No one is known to be immune now. We don’t know what the future holds, though we do know of one mitigation strategy that has generally worked in previous epidemics. Physical isolation prevents communicable disease spread. Unless of course, the disease virus particles can remain alive and suspended in air for a long time. Then we have a very different and more dangerous problem.

Rumors, conspiracy theories, political and economic arguments for reducing mitigation is simply unhelpful now. The US president desperately needs to NEVER ad-lib in informational sessions. To clear everything he is thinking about with someone else. Lest we get the madness we’ve seen in recent days.

Stick to the script. Let the experts expert. Do not … do not undermine them.

We need real hope now, not silver bullets. Not scientifically and medically unsound ad-libbed speculation. Real hope comes from the people who squirmed when the statements on disinfectant and UV light were made. Lets enable them to do their job, and not pressure them with silver bullets.


[update] I just read this preliminary report of a study pointing out that a viral gene has been detected in air pollution particulate matter. Hopefully, this is a case of cross contamination of samples, and not airborne viral particles, or failed analysis, or …

Because if it is the latter, this gets a whole lot worse. Very quickly.