COVID-19 and Q-fever: random observation or something to evaluate?

“The course of an epidemic is defined by a series of key factors, some of which are poorly understood at present for COVID-19” (Roy Anderson Lancet, March 9th)

While several of the factors are obvious and come to mind immediately, others, might at this point be speculation or indiscriminate observations that need further scientific evaluation.

One of the latter category, might be the observation I would like to share in this post. One of the regions of the Netherlands that presently has one of the highest COVID-19 rates, is a region in the South of the country. To our knowledge there is only one thing unusual about that region; About ten years ago, the region was in the midst of the Dutch Q-fever epidemic. Could one of those key factors that we don’t understand and that may lead to area’s with exceptional high rates of COVID-19 be previous infectious diseases such as Q-fever, or more general a higher prevalence of previous long damage, due to infectious diseases? 

Have a look at the graphs and please share your thoughts.

With thanks to my colleague Bert Mulder, Nijmegen

COVID-19 and my idea on masks

Next to the idea that we see many contraptions (you can’t even call them masks) we see many people with all kind of masks, in and outside our healthcare settings. Certainly after my last flight to a WHO meeting on COVID-19, I had the feeling that it is time to write about masks.

On my way to Geneva, the gentleman to my left (yes, thanks to a canceled flight, I was in the hated middle seat) was calm, sleepy and wearing a mask. The fellow on my right, clearly had the sniffles, came from somewhere far away and was spreading his respiratory secretions in all directions, including mine. I so wanted to pull of the mask from calm-sleepy-guy, to place it on the next-seat-germ-blower.

How easy could basic prevention be? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if people would adhere to simple principles of how to cough and sneeze in public: turn away from others, use a tissue or elbow, followed by hand hygiene? Why don’t the people on buses, trains and airplanes don’t know this? If in addition, anyone who is sick gets a surgical mask while in public, we might have a way of preventing (or at least delaying) the spread of respiratory viruses. Instead, masks are worn by the healthy, leaving the sick (and soon-to-be hospital patients) without the needed protection.

Talking about masks in healthcare; Nearly every country I know off, went for maximum safety, recommending FFP2 masks (similar to N95). I would have suggested to use FFP1 for the majority of cases, and FFP2 only during high-risk procedures. But how can I, if everyone else seems to go “full safety”. Another reason, why I believe that my idea wouldn’t have been too bad, is the high probability that soon we will have a shortage of FFP2 and will have to tell our HCWs that FFP1 and surgical masks are “equally save”. Yes, I can see how they believe me and willingly expose themselves to the increasing number of patients with less than previously needed PPE! I believe that we have valid reasons to consider evidence over maximum safety, and that while we didn’t even start to talk about discomfort and physical effects associated with prolonged use of FFP2. Continue reading