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Thu Nov 26, 2020, 10:13 AM

How Iceland hammered COVID with science

Driving along Reykjavik’s windswept roads on a cold March morning, Kári Stefánsson turned up the radio. The World Health Organization had just announced that an estimated 3.4% of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 would die — a shockingly high fatality rate, some 30 times larger than that for seasonal influenza.

There was a problem with that estimate, however: it was based on reported cases of COVID-19, rather than all cases, including mild and asymptomatic infections. “I couldn’t figure out how they could calculate it out without knowing the spread of the virus,” recalls Stefánsson, who is the founder and chief executive of deCODE genetics, a human-genomics company in Reykjavik. He became convinced that making sense of the epidemic, and protecting the people of Iceland from it, would require a sweeping scientific response.

When Stefánsson arrived at work, he phoned the leadership of Amgen, the US pharmaceutical company that owns deCODE, and asked whether he could offer deCODE’s resources to track the spread of the virus, which had landed on Icelandic shores only six days earlier. “The response I got from them was, ‘For heaven’s sake, do that,’” says Stefánsson.

Over the ensuing nine months, deCODE and Iceland’s Directorate of Health, the government agency that oversees health-care services, worked hand-in-hand, sharing ideas, data, laboratory space and staff. The high-powered partnership, coupled with Iceland’s diminutive size, has put the country in the enviable position of knowing practically every move the virus has made. The teams have tracked the health of every person who has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, sequenced the genetic material of each viral isolate and screened more than half of the island’s 368,000 residents for infection.

Late nights analysing the resulting data trove led to some of the earliest insights about how the coronavirus spreads through a population. The data showed, for example, that almost half of infected people are asymptomatic, that children are much less likely to become sick than adults and that the most common symptoms of mild COVID-19 are muscle aches, headaches and a cough — not fever. “Scientific activities have been a huge part of the entire process,” says Runolfur Palsson, director of internal-medicine services at Landspitali — The National University Hospital of Iceland. Researchers at deCODE and the hospital worked day in and day out to gather and interpret the data.

Their achievements aren’t merely academic. Iceland’s science has been credited with preventing deaths — the country reports fewer than 7 per 100,000 people, compared with around 80 per 100,000 in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has also managed to prevent outbreaks while keeping its borders open, welcoming tourists from 45 countries since mid-June. The partnership again kicked into high gear in September, when a second large wave of infections threatened the nation.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-03284-3

Much more at the link.

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Reply How Iceland hammered COVID with science (Original post)
Klaralven Nov 26 OP
tanyev Nov 26 #1
Hekate Nov 26 #2

Response to Klaralven (Original post)

Thu Nov 26, 2020, 10:42 AM

1. Science? Not the mighty resolve of Dear Leader?

Weird.



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Response to Klaralven (Original post)

Thu Nov 26, 2020, 10:50 AM

2. Iceland: such an interesting country

I look forward to reading the rest later

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