Genetic sequencing at the Gorgas Institute / Secuenciación genética en el Instituto Gorgas. Foto por MINSA.
Todavía no hemos encontrado la cepa de COVID sudafricana aquí
Editor’s note: A couple coming into Tocumen Airport from South Africa by way of The Netherlands tested positive for COVID-19 and went into quarantine. There was immediate concern and speculation, given that the newer South African strain of the virus appears to be a bit deadlier than others.
(But what is “deadlier?” If someone who catches the strain first identified in South Africa is a few percentage points more likely to die than someone who catches the strain first identified in the United Kingdom, does it make the former more deadly than the latter, which appears to be far more contagious than other strains? There could be more deaths caused by the greater number of infections from the “UK strain” than the more individually lethal “South African strain.” And let’s take what we now know or think we know as preliminary, as effective treatments or preventives for newer strains may yet be coming.)
In any case, in the above communique the Ministry of Health says that the government’s Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Research has gene-sequenced samples taken from the infected South African couple and found that they had neither the South African nor the British varieties of COVID-19. It does not mean that these strains are not already here. We may have people in Panama who are infected with them yet remain undetected. Nor does it mean that if not here, they won’t make future appearances on this isthmus.
Also set aside both anti-scientific conspiracy theories and garden variety naivete: Panama’s Ministry of Health is not an infallible source. It is subject to political manipulation. However, its statements about the science of this epidemic have proven to be generally reliable.
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