When Althea reviews her notes from the beginning – what they think is the beginning – she has to go back a few years. Their best guess at an index patient comes from a routine check-up in Brazil. The records aren’t high on the kind of detail they need, just normal medical notes. No one knew there was anything to look out for then. The doctor had noted the strain was weird, not something they recognised.
An understatement, as it turned out.
The progression has been unlike anything they’ve seen. PIV-1 is infecting millions on a daily basis and the rate is increasing exponentially.
Yet, they’re still struggling to persuade governments to pay attention and, most importantly, invest in research. As it stands, they’re limited in how much they can find out about the pathogen.
This thing’s more contagious than the common cold but because the symptoms are about as benign as the cold, funding is hard to come by. The WHO has placed it on the watchlist, but people still don’t see the need to take it too seriously. Today, she has a date in the lab with PIV-1’s genetic material. They’re still trying to work out exactly what they’re dealing with.
Things turn after that. Last month, Brazil had announced the closure of airports to commercial traffic in an effort to limit the spread of the disease. Across the world, other countries are obviously watching to see if they should follow suit but predictably, all hesitate. They don’t realise it’s probably already too late, was too late some time ago. Based on the available data, Althea knows the virus is essentially global already. Every epidemiologist worth anything can tell that.
However, amidst all of that, today represents progress and a hard-won victory. She’s in a meeting today, where they’re discussing sending research teams to infected countries across the globe. It may speed progress on decoding the pathogen and the development of a vaccine.
They’ve done their best to coordinate efforts across the globe but physical distance has proved a formidable barrier. This is a global pandemic; a global approach is required.
Althea knows that had this meeting taken place a few years ago, things would have been simpler and the time invaluable.
Yet, the focus now being applied sparks hope within her.