One Full Year Without a Viral Infection: Thank You, Social Distancing

I will be the first to admit that I have pandemic fatigue. I miss having a beer after hockey with my teammates, I miss going to class, and I miss freely going to the grocery store without having to orchestrate some massive plan. I also miss the days when working hours wouldn’t blend into time off and vice versa. My stress has almost certainly peaked and receded along with the ebbs and flows of case surges in my area and where my family lives back home. 10 months of flexing public health policies has been a real pain in the ass… but it is our collective pain in the ass.

The truth, though, is they work.

A study published this week in The Lancet concluded, “The widespread reported use of face masks combined with physical distancing increases the odds of SARS-CoV-2 transmission control. Self-reported mask-wearing increased separately from government mask mandates, suggesting that supplemental public health interventions are needed to maximise adoption and help to curb the ongoing epidemic.”

I came across the study via Twitter where I follow Doctor Steve from @Weirdmedicine. Weird Medicine is a popular podcast I was able to join for an episode last year to talk about CF and some of the milestones we’ve achieved over the past decade. It is a great (albeit, not exactly family friendly) podcast that makes medical information and knowledge accessible for the average listener. I recommend giving it a listen (if you possess the power to have a sense of humor going in).

Doctor Steve tweeted out the study and went as far to suggest that our public health protections have probably led to a decrease in influenza prevalence. The data from CDC on flu activity would certainly support that hypothesis.

That got me to thinking… for the first time in my life I went a full year without a viral infection, which feels a bit like a surreal realization.

Thank you, social distancing.

The bottom line is that viral illness is highly correlated with pulmonary exacerbations in cystic fibrosis, which, as we know, then contribute to respiratory decline and an eventual spiral towards critical illness over time. For as along as I can remember, I (all of us with CF) have been hypervigilant about hand hygiene, infection control in hospitals and public places, and general awareness about coughing and sneezing around me. With all that in mind, it has long proven to be nearly impossible to control for all risk factors when out and about in the public.

People go to work and school sick.

People do not cover their mouth when the cough.

People (for some unknown reason) fail to routinely wash their hands when presented with the opportunity.

Now that simple infection control standards have been implemented worldwide, it’s no wonder I have been protected with my limited exposure to the world. Staying home more than I would like, of course, helps, too.

Darcy and I got to talking today about what this could mean for my long-term health. It is impossible to know, but to make it a full year without having to fight off anything extra feels like a cause for celebrating. Of all the horrible things that have happened in the last year, this one small victory feels like something I can hang my hat on today.


My reading list from 2020

1619 – James Horn
Across the Fence – John Stryker Meyer
Call Sign Chaos – Jim Mattis & Bing West
China Rx – Rosemary Gibson & Janardan Prasad Singh
Countdown 1945 – Chris Wallace
Fortitude – Dan Crenshaw
Founding Brothers – Joseph J. Ellis
The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
The Great American Drug Deal – Peter Kolchinsky
I Love Capitalism! – Ken Langone
John Adams Under Fire – Dan Abrams and David Fisher
Killing Crazy Horse – Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
The Second Founding – Eric Foner
Superbugs – Dr. Matt McCarthy
Thinking in Bets – Annie Duke
Why We Revolt – Dr. Victor Montori
The Wide Lens – Ron Adner