Covid-19, as a virus, generally does not directly kill. Instead, it fools our own immune system into killing us via the mechanism of a cytokine storm.
It is not the only disease that can provoke cytokine storms. We don’t know how to reliably stop cytokine storms. If we did, we wouldn’t have to shut down the economy. We could just treat those who are starting to get sick so they wouldn’t develop into a cytokine storm, pay the bills, however, and we would all come out trillions of dollars ahead with a death toll of no national or international significance as the only people who would succumb would be those already on death’s door.
If nobody else will say it, I will. We don’t need to close down the majority of our economy just to change what’s written on a death certificate that was coming out anyway.
Diseases will continue to emerge. Any disease that provokes cytokine storms while not killing many itself will be just as scary as Covid-19 and we’ll be back to the question of whether we have another economic shutdown.
Cytokine storms are not just associated with infectious diseases. The first mention of the term in the literature was about graft vs host disease in a 1993 article. They entered into the general public’s imagination 15 years ago with the H5N1 flu. We don’t really understand why they happen and how to reliably stop them from taking a life. This is a public health issue deeper than how we pay for healthcare. It threatens us all and will continue to do so at irregular intervals as new diseases emerge that cause cytokine storms.
So as we move past our currently unsustainable shutdown due to Covid-19, we all have to decide whether we’re going to let cytokine storms go until the next time some disease breaks out and kills significant numbers of people via this mechanism or whether we’re going to treat this seriously so that the next time we’ll be ready. It’s our choice.