April 17th 2020
written by Dr. Stephen A. Berger
For several years, the World Health Organization has been following a group of twenty-or-so Neglected Tropical Diseases. In the Developed World, these conditions are largely unknown to the general public, and even to physicians working in fields outside of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases. In only three months, the list of neglected diseases has grown to include more than 360 infectious conditions – all because of a single new viral disease called COVID-19.
As of this morning, 287 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) resulting in 23 deaths. How many are aware that this same country is in the midst of a massive outbreak of Ebola – which has claimed 3,457 cases and 2,266 deaths to date. Since January 1, nearby Nigeria has reported 188 deaths from Lassa fever, compared to only 13 deaths from COVID-19.
Saudi Arabia is currently experiencing a massive outbreak of coronavirus infection, but not the one you’ve been reading about. For more than seven years, infection by MERS-CoV (a close “relative” of the COVID-19 virus) has infected 2,044 Saudis and claimed the lives of 821. Compare this to the current COVID-19 outbreak, which has killed “only” 83 Saudis as of today. Any patient who walks into a clinic in Rio, Paris or New York, and says that he has a cough and fever, will be rushed into an isolation room by a group of people draped in masks, gowns, goggles, and gloves. After all….what else could this be?! The answer to that question becomes apparent in the following list, generated by GIDEON.
Note in this screenshot that I’ve asked the computer to list all possible diseases that could explain the presence of fever, cough, and pneumonia in a group of American adults. The GIDEON program tells me that COVID-19 is “number one” on the list, with a statistical likelihood of 83%. But no less than 65 other diseases also appear on this list, including, as you might expect, Influenza and a variety of common viral conditions.
The message here is simple: in the era of COVID-19, not every disease IS COVID-19.