Peter Piot is a rock star of virology. The Mick Jagger of viruses. He was one of the discoverers of the Ebola virus, when he was 27 years old, and led the fight against HIV-AIDS. is defined as a "detective virus" and it is legendary among healthcare workers globally. He is, without a doubt, the right person for this historic moment. But first, he will have to finish recovering from the Covid-19. Yes, one of the people he knows best about viruses was caught by one of them while he was quietly installed in his office at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He was admitted to a state hospital for a week and came out to count it. He returned home in one of those red double-decker buses enjoying a deserted London.
The doctor Gita Ramjee he was another star of virology. He worked in the front line of the fight against HIV-AIDS in South Africa, the country in the world with the most infected and victims of the disease. He discovered one above the vagina that aided in the transmission of the infection in women. He built a network to stop the spread of the virus among prostitutes in Johannesburg and Durban. In January, she had traveled to Britain to attend a conference on the subject and visit her children who live there and are also scientists. When he returned to Durban, he already had all the symptoms of having been infected with Covid-19. She spent two weeks hospitalized fighting a virus similar to the one she had mastered. Until he overcame it. He died at the Central Hospital in the South African capital at age 64. Peter Piot said he was "deeply saddened" by the death of his colleague. "I have known Gita for many years and it is difficult to overstate her groundbreaking scientific contributions and her unwavering commitment to HIV prevention, particularly among women and girls in Africa," she wrote.
In both cases, it seems that the virus took revenge. In one, unfortunately, it triumphed. In the other, luckily, he lost.
Peter Piot, was born and raised in Belgium, was one of the discoverers of the Ebola virus in 1976 and he spent his career fighting infectious diseases. He directed the Joint United Nations Program on HIV / AIDS between 1995 and 2008 and is currently an advisor to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in the Covid-19 pandemic. But her personal confrontation with the coronavirus was an experience that changed his life, ensures the scientist. On May 2, he was interviewed by a journalist from the Belgian magazine Knack for the edition that was uploaded to his website three days later. And he tells his experience in this way:
“On March 19, I suddenly had a high fever and a throbbing headache. My skull and my hair hurt, which was strange. I had no cough at the time, but still, my first reflex was: I do. I kept working, I'm addicted to work, but from home. We put a lot of effort into teleworking at the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine last year, so we didn't have to travel as much. That investment, made in the context of fighting global warming, is now very useful, of course.
Finally, I tested positive for COVID-19, as I suspected. I isolated myself in a room we have for guests at home. But the fever did not disappear. I had never been seriously ill in my life and had not taken a day of sick leave in the past 10 years. I live a fairly healthy life and walk regularly. The only risk factor is my age: I am 71 years old. I am optimistic, so I thought it would happen. But on April 1, a medical friend advised me to have a full exam because the fever, and especially exhaustion, was getting worse.
It turned out he had a severe oxygen deficiencyAlthough I was not short of breath yet. Lung radiographs showed that she had severe pneumonia, typical of Covid-19, as well as bacterial pneumonia. I felt exhausted when I am normally full of energy. It wasn't just fatigue, but total exhaustion; I will never forget that feeling. I had to be hospitalized, although by then I already had a negative result of the virus. This is also typical of the Covid-19: the virus disappears, but its consequences persist for weeks.
I was concerned about getting a respirator because I had read that the chances of dying increased. I was pretty scared, but luckily, first I got an oxygen mask and it turned out to work. So, I ended up in an isolation room in the antechamber of the intensive care department. You are so tired that you resign yourself to your destiny. You completely surrender to the nursing staff. I'm generally pretty proactive in the way I operate, but here I went 100% patient. I shared a room with a homeless, a Colombian office cleaner and another man from Bangladesh, the three diabetics, which is consistent with the known image of the disease. The days and nights were lonely because no one had the energy to speak. I could only whisper for weeks. Even now, my voice loses power at night.
I'm glad I had a crown and not EbolaAlthough I read a scientific study yesterday that concluded that you have a 30% chance of dying if you end up in a British hospital with Covid-19. That's the same death rate we had for Ebola, in 2014, in West Africa. And that makes you lose your scientific status and emotional reflexes triumph. They caught me, sometimes I thought. I dedicated my life to fighting viruses and eventually they take revenge. For a week I balanced between heaven and earth, on the brink of what might have been the end.
I was released from the hospital after a long week. I traveled home on public transportation. He wanted to see the city, with its empty streets, its closed pubs and its surprisingly fresh air. There was no one on the street, a strange experience. I was unable to walk properly because my muscles were weakened by lack of movement, which is not a good thing when it comes to a lung condition. At home I cried for a long time. I also slept badly for a while. The risk that something could go very wrong keeps going through your head. You are locked up again, but you must put this in perspective. Now I admire Nelson Mandela even more than I used to. He was locked up in prison for 27 years, and came out as a great reconciler; no hard feelings. You have to get out of these experiences in this way, a little better.
I have always had a great respect for viruses, and that has not decreased. I dedicated a large part of my life to the fight against the AIDS virus. It is such a smart thing; evades everything we do to block it. Now that I have felt the presence of a virus in my body, I see viruses differently. I realize that this will change my life, despite the confrontational experiences I have had with viruses before. I feel more vulnerable.
Today, after 7 weeks, I feel more or less fit for the first time. I ate white asparagus, which I order from a Turkish greengrocer around the corner from my house. I am from Keerbergen, in Belgium, a community that grows asparagus, and I love them. I also opened a nice bottle of wine to celebrate, the first in a long time. It is time to thank life and continue to look at the virus with great respect. You can return at any time. "
Dr. Gita Ramjee's experience was much more painful. He had his last two weeks, practically unable to move. Everyone knew her at the hospital. He had fought hard against the health bureaucracy and for the rights of doctors and nurses.
Ramjee was born and raised in Uganda. When the brutal dictator Idi Amin He took power in the early 1970s, moved with his family to India, and then to the United Kingdom. In 1980, he obtained a degree in chemistry and physiology from the University of Sunderland, in north east England. A year later she moved again, this time to South Africa with her husband. He obtained a doctorate in pediatrics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban in 1994, a "feat" that he described in an interview with The Guardian in 2007 as a balancing act between studying and caring for the two children she had at the time. "I used to get up at six in the morning," he explained. “I made breakfast and lunch at the same time, woke up the children, sent them to school, did half a day of practical work in the hospital, on the way back picked up my children from school, helped them do their homework, gave them I made dinner and made them sleep. I got up again at two in the morning to work on the thesis. And i survived"
It was after his doctorate that he became involved in research with women at risk of HIV infection. He then headed the HIV prevention research unit of the South African Medical Research Council in Durban, where She oversaw many trials of HIV prevention tools, including vaginal microbicides, products that could help women protect themselves against AIDS infection. He also held honorary chairs at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the University of Washington in Seattle, among others.
When Ramjee received the award from the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership to the most outstanding scientist of 2018 For her work in HIV prevention, she said in her speech that she would continue dedicating her life to fighting this and other diseases that mainly attack low-income women. He did it for another two years, until the virus took revenge.
MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC:
How the "Indiana Jones of Virology" Works to Stop the Next Pandemic