- The latest coronavirus update out of Europe, as bad as the recent headlines might sound, arguably obscure that there’s a bright spot which might not be readily apparent from the news coverage.
- Doctors are actually getting a lot better at treating patients, in terms of both keeping them alive but also helping them to avoid the most severe COVID-19 cases.
- This news comes as the number of coronavirus cases in many European countries is on the upswing again.
The latest coronavirus update out of Europe is as grim, in its own way, as the news is stateside. The virus is flaring up to a worrisome degree again in places like the UK and France. The UK, in fact, in recent days instituted a new three-tier lockdown system, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that puts the country into traffic light-style medium, high, and very high alert areas, with an increased level of restrictions depending on the category.
This comes amid related news out of Europe, including the pronouncement on Monday from the UK’s chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance that no vaccine is likely to completely eradicate COVID-19. “We can’t be certain, but I think it’s unlikely we will end up with a truly sterilizing vaccine, (that is) something that completely stops infection, and it’s likely this disease will circulate and be endemic, that’s my best assessment,” Vallance told the National Security Strategy Committee in London, per CNBC. Even so, the news out of Europe is not all bad, even in spite of the coronavirus resurgence.
The good news: The chances of someone dying from COVID-19 are falling, compared to when things first broke out in Europe.
According to a Financial Times analysis, the number of coronavirus patients who get sick enough to need to be put into the hospital has stopped growing as fast, as has the number of people dying from COVID-19. Moreover, hospitals are no longer getting as overwhelmed as they did early on in the pandemic. “In western Europe, pretty much every country including the UK is still seeing a much smaller per capita death rate in this second wave than in the first one during the spring,” Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, told the FT.
Data from the UK Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) shows that the percentage of people who died within 28 days of hospital admission dropped from almost 40% to 27% in the months leading up to August compared to the period after September 1.
As you might expect, the uptick in the 28-day survival rate in patients under age 70 rose, from 61% to 79%. For patients under age 50, the survival percentage rose from 82% to 91%.
Some of the improvement in these trends is down to health professionals’ increased knowledge around using therapeutics like dexamethasone to reduce inflammation in patients and to calm down their immune systems that may have gone into overdrive. “The rest is probably down to the experience of doctors and nurses learning how to treat patients,” Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, told the FT. “We see this in any epidemic, when medics flail around for a bit as they discover what works best.”