Covid-19: Interpretation of data

In view of the expansion of the Covid-19 in different countries, and taking as a reference the model of spreading exposed in the previous post, it is possible to make an interpretation of the data, in order to solve some doubts and contradictions raised in different forums.

But before starting this analysis, it is important to highlight an outstanding feature of the Covid-19 expansion shown by the model. In general, the modeling of infectious processes usually focuses on the infection rate of individuals, leaving temporal aspects such as incubation or latency periods of the pathogens in the background. This is justified as a consequence of the fact that their influence is generally unnoticed, besides introducing difficulties in the analytical study of the models. 

However, in the case of Covid-19 its rapid expansion makes the effect of time parameters evident, putting health systems in critical situations and making it difficult to interpret the data that emerge as the pandemic spreads. 

In this sense, the outstanding characteristics of the Covid-19 are:

  • The high capacity of infection.
  • The capacity of infection of individuals in the incubation phase.
  • The capacity of infection of asymptomatic individuals.

This makes the number of possible asymptomatic cases very high, presenting a great difficulty in diagnosis, as a result of the lack of resources caused by the novelty and rapid spread of the virus.

For this reason, the model has been developed taking into account the temporal parameters of the spread of the infection, which requires a numerical model, since the analytical solution is very complex and possibly without a purely analytical solution. 

As a result, the model has a distinctive feature compared to conventional models, which is shown in the figure below. 

This consists in that it is necessary to distinguish groups of asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals, since they present a temporal evolution delayed in time. As a consequence, the same happens with the curves of hospitalized and ICU individuals.

This allows clarifying some aspects linked to the real evolution of the virus. For example, in relation to the declaration of the exceptional measures in Italy and Spain, a substantial improvement in the contention of the pandemic was expected, something that still seems distant. The reason for this behavior is that the contention measures have been taken on the basis of the evolution of the curve of symptomatic individuals, ignoring the fact that there was already a very important population of asymptomatic individuals.

As can be seen in the graphs, the measurements should have been taken at least three weeks in advance, that is, according to the evolution curve of asymptomatic individuals. But in order to make this decision correctly, this data should have been available, something that was completely impossible, as a result of the lack of a test campaign on the population. 

This situation is supported by the example of China, which although the spread of the virus could not be contained at an early stage, containment measures were taken several weeks earlier, on a comparative time scale.

The data from Germany are also very significant, exhibiting a much lower mortality rate than Italy and Spain. Although this raises a question about the capacity of infection in this country, it is actually easy to explain. In Italy and Spain, testing for Covid-19 infection is beginning. However, in Germany these tests have been carried out for several weeks at a rate of several hundred thousand per week. In contrast, the numbers of individuals diagnosed in Italy and Spain should be reviewed in the future.

This explains the lower mortality rate for a large number of infected individuals.  This also has a decisive advantage, since early diagnosis allows for the isolation of infected individuals, reducing the possibility of infection of other individuals, which ultimately will result in a lower mortality rate.

Therefore, a quick conclusion can be made that can be summarized in the following points: 

  • Measures to isolate the population are necessary but ineffective when taken at an advanced stage of the pandemic.
  • Early detection of infection is a totally decisive aspect in the contention of the pandemic and above all in the reduction of the mortality rate.

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