Nicholas Christakis on fighting COVID-19 by truly understanding the virus

Nicholas Christakis on fighting COVID-19 by truly understanding the virus

  • The latest coronavirus is different from past ones, so requires a different response

SEVEN VARIETIES of coronavirus infect humans: four give us the sniffles; one causes a deadly disease smouldering in the Middle East since 2012; and two erupted into full-on pandemics. The first caused SARS and it petered out quickly. The other causes covid-19 and it has hobbled the global economy. Why the difference?

It is not only a matter of the public-health response or governmental incompetence (though that has certainly made things worse). It also has to do with the underlying epidemiology of the pathogen, which we are coming to appreciate, after little more than a half-year of experience. Viewing covid-19 through the lens of SARS can lead to flawed responses. Understanding how the novel coronavirus is different is essential for identifying how society can best confront it.