28. WHAT WE KNOW: Cristiano’s number k

Detailsof the virus

We have identified the virus that causes the disease, we know its genes and we know that its ability to mutate is not too high, or at least not as high as that of the influenza virus (causing flu), for example. A virus that mutates a lot changes too much, this being an inconvenience to produce vaccines, since it forces us to produce a new vaccine every season. On the other hand, the fact that a virus mutates does not always mean that it becomes a more dangerous virus. Rather the other way around. A virus that causes fewer symptoms spreads better than a more deadly virus.

Playing for Barça’s (10-11 year old), Ansu Fati scored 53 goals, and Take Kubo 73. At some point in their careers, they preferred to continue scoring goals in a virulent way in the second team rather than sitting on the bench of the first team. Something similar happens to viruses: better to have a low profile to have more minutes and score more goals.

Confinement works

We know that the contagion capacity of SARS-CoV-2, determined by its basic reproductive number R0close to three, is high. Remember that the R0, or contagion capacity, of the flu is three times lower. The good news is that the value of R0is in our hands. Confinement has worked. Those countries, such as the United Kingdom and Sweden, which were confined sooner or later, have recognized their error. In Spain, according to the Ministry of Health, since the beginning of April the R0has been below one. This implies that an infected person, on average, infects less than one person, causing the disease to become extinct … if we continue to take measures to keep it low: face masks in places without social distancing and closed spaces, frequent hand washing, etc.

Take care in closedand crowded rooms

In addition to R0, there is another important number, which is the number k, known as the dispersion parameter. A low k implies that a few infected are the major dispersers of the disease. A recent scientific study by a London-based research group estimates that 10% of those infected cause 80% of infections33. In other words, a few superspreaders cause the majority of contagions in super-contagion events. As we already know, with the SARS-CoV-1 superspreader events occurred and consequently it also had a low k34.

A low number k would be something like Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid who was champion in the 100 points season (2011-12). That season, Cristiano scored 46 goals, 38% of his team’s total. Most football teams also have a low k number because a few players score almost all of the team’s goals.

One of the most striking supercontag events was the case of a Washington choir that rehearsed for more than two hours in a closed room. If you remember the “Flügge Microdrops” chapter, you can imagine that the SARS-CoV-2 viruses were partying while the choir sang, passing from person to person, traveling over the Flugge microdrops. More than half of the choir was infected35. A party of contagion. But since we are no longer innocent or stupid, while the virus is circulating in our region, if we are in a closed and crowded place, we will try to wear a mask and stay for a short time or, much better, we will get out of there.

Test work

We have a very reliable type of test to detect the presence of the virus (RT-PCR) and other tests, not so reliable but useful, to detect if you have been in contact with the virus (antibody or serological test). In Spain, the reaction capacity to perform massive testing was slow when tests were most needed. Now we do have a better logistics to do many tests to help detect and control virus outbreaks. As a novelty, SARS-CoV-2 can also be detected in treatment plants because the virus reaches stool25. In this way, by analyzing poop, we could detect outbreaks of COVID-19 in populations. There are poops that have already been lost and will not be studied, such as Gary Lineker’s in the 1990 World Cup in Italy. There, in a match against Ireland, Lineker sat on the floor for a while, relieving himself. When a colleague came up to ask him what was wrong, Lineker’s reply, «I’ve shit myself», was read on his lips by millions of viewers.

Humour is a medicine

Humor is a utensil to live and a weapon to survive. Despite the tragedy that was happening, people did not stop using this weapon to combat sadness. Being in a good mood, but with respect for victims and those who are suffering too much, is a delicate balance. However, we have shown that we do not know how to live without humour and that we need it. As an example, this tweet that appeared during the days we went out at eight at night to the balcony to applaud the health workers:

Boiled Egg Recipe

Put an egg in boiling water at 19:50.

Withdraw upon hearing applause.

Follow me for more recipes.

Invest in Science matters

When COVID-19 came on suddenly, everyone looked at the scientists. What is this? Do you have a vaccine? Do you have a drug? Science gave some answers, but solutions need longer deadlines. Supporting scientist activities will give you the knowledge, and knowledge is freedom and protection. We need laws to ensure the support of science so that investment in Research & Development does not depend on the whim of the politicians who are governing. Rich countries don’t invest in science because they are rich, they get richer by investing in science.