Kirschner: Prepare for a long war against novel coronavirus


The human race has been at war with microscopic pathogens since the dawn of time.

The Ten Plagues of Egypt of the Old Testament, the Black Death of the 14th century, malaria, TB, cholera, polio, syphilis, measles and AIDS are just a few examples.

George Washington fought a war and an epidemic of smallpox. John Adams dealt with a plague of yellow fever. FDR had polio. Ronald Reagan faced the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Donald Trump has the novel coronavirus.

There are two characteristics of our tiny enemies that are crucial in understanding their characteristics. They are transmissibility and lethality.

To put it simply, it means how effective is the organism in moving from one person to another and how many does it kill.

The 1918 flu moved rapidly from one person to another and killed 100 million people. The common cold moves easily but isn't lethal. Ebola was lethal but not a pandemic. 

The 2019 novel coronavirus is nasty. It has moved rapidly around the world and has the capacity to cause significant numbers of deaths. We need the best and brightest of science from around the world to find a treatment and a vaccine.

This war is in its earliest stages.

Leonard Kirschner

Litchfield Park