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SARS-CoV-2 long gone unnoticed in the United States?
In no other country in the world is the new corona virus SARS-CoV-2 currently spreading as strongly as in the USA. Again, from April 1st, 2020 to April 2nd, 2020, over 25,000 new infections were reported. In addition, around 1,000 people died in just one day. There are currently 216,722 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,137 deaths known. The number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher. How could this happen?
In his NDR podcast on the corona virus, the chief virologist of the Berlin Charité Professor Christian Drosten explains why the USA was so hard hit. The latest research suggests that the virus spread unnoticed in the US very early on and was played down for too long. The health and economic consequences are dramatic.
Small mutations provide conclusions about the introduction
As Professor Drosten reports in the podcast, small virus mutations can be used to determine where the corona virus was most likely to have been introduced. In addition, the genome of the virus provides an indication of when this happened. For example, two different variants of SARS-CoV-2 were discovered, both of which were also rampant in Wuhan.
While a rarer variant was discovered at a very early point in time, as the situation worsened in Chinese hospitals, a later variant of SARS-CoV-2 became more common. Both virus variants were exported to other countries in the world. "Europe got more from one variant, the USA got more from the other variant - the USA even got a lot from both variants," explains the virus expert.
Has the corona virus spread unnoticed in the United States?
"From the fact that the USA got something from both - including the early virus - we also see that the virus was apparently introduced into the USA very early on," concludes Drosten. You can't say whether one variant is more dangerous than the other, but you can use the variants to reconstruct temporal and spatial relationships. "If you know, for example, that the early virus in China is relatively common in the USA today, we can deduce relatively directly from it that the USA probably had a lot of entries from China at a relatively early stage that they just did not notice," explains the virologist.
Has the United States acted inconsistently and irresponsibly?
US President Trump has played down the corona virus for a long time and does not seem to take it seriously. "It is also the big problem in the United States that testing has not been carried out consistently until it has been noticed," Drosten continued. Now there is a problem that can hardly be controlled.
Coronavirus paralyzes US economy
The serious consequences of the rapid spread are already apparent. Many companies struggle to survive. A look at the restaurant chain "Waffle House" shows how drastic these effects are, which is considered particularly crisis-resistant in the USA. In the southern United States, the Waffle House is a kind of institution and is best known for its sandwiches and waffles. The chain survived early crises so well that the US disaster control agency FEMA uses it as an indicator of the economy or the severity of a crisis.
Due to the Corona crisis, more than 400 of the company's 1,992 locations have now been closed. In addition, sales decreased by more than 70 percent. The “Waffle House Index” consequently jumped to red - a clear alarm signal for the entire American economy.
New York particularly hard hit
The world metropolis of New York City was particularly hard hit. Over 47,000 laboratory-confirmed infections and 1,374 deaths have been reported here alone (source: Johns Hopkins University on April 2, 2020). According to media reports, the city's medical capacities are so overwhelmed that healthcare workers have to make triage decisions and, for example, people with heart attacks no longer deliver to hospitals if they cannot be resuscitated on the spot. (vb)
You can find more current information about the situation in Germany and the world in our daily corona virus update: Bavaria badly affected - deaths in the USA, Spain and Italy are increasing rapidly.
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Johns Hopkins University: Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE); (Access: 02.04.2020, 1 p.m.), gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com
- NDR: Coronavirus update (25) with Christian Drosten (published: March 31, 2020), ndr.de