Camus’ ‘The Plague’ predicted ‘every part’ of the COVID-19 pandemic

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November 12, 2022

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Verghese A. Keynote Lecture: Physician, Patients and the Nature of Heroism in Medicine. Presented at: ACR Convergence 2022; November 11-14, 2022; Philadelphia (hybrid meeting).

Disclosures:
Verghese does not report any relevant financial information.


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PHILADELPHIA – Looking not just at history, but at stories like novels and movies, can help medical professionals understand and move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, according to keynote speaker at ACR Convergence 2022.

“It is important that our leaders know the history well,” Abraham Verghese, MD, Linda R. Meier and Joan F. Lane, senior professor of medicine at Stanford University, told attendees. “But if you read ‘The Plague,‘ by Albert Camus, you could have anticipated all aspects of the pandemic. »

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“The heroes and heroines of this story are all of you”, Abraham Verghese, MARYLAND, told attendees at ACR Convergence 2022. “All of you in healthcare.”

Verghese is not only an infectious disease clinician, but also a best-selling novelist and storyteller. He noted that Camus’ 1947 novel predicted vaccine deniers, misinformation about therapies, that some people would be unaware of the existence of the virus and the backlash from those on the front lines of the fight.

Additionally, Verghese suggested that there are strong parallels to be drawn between COVID-19 and “monster stories,” like the movie “Jaws.” Understanding how these stories played out in the fictional realm can be instructive for how to deal with the “monster paradigm” that COVID-19 has presented, he added.

“We’ve been through this particular story, so might as well be sure you understand it,” Verghese said.

“First you need a invincible monster,” he added. “The monster must be appeased every day by human sacrifice.”

In this case, daily news reports and multiple websites tracked local, state, national, and international infection and death rates associated with COVID-19.

“The monster was fed every day,” Verghese said.

The monster also needs allies. In the current scenario, “great political unrest” has led to increased challenges for the healthcare community in its attempts to control the virus, he added.

Meanwhile, political divisions have led to misinformation about rheumatology drugs that have caused shortages for patients, according to Verghese.

“There has been misuse of many drugs that were so vital to your patients and mine,” he said, adding that skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines was also a huge hurdle for doctors to overcome. . “The monster was extremely powerful.”

Of course, Verghese suggested that every monster story needs a hero.

“There is an individual stepping forward,” he said. “They have belief and faith. They can martial forces and weapons. When they combine this with belief, they end up conquering the monster.

Verghese has made it clear who he believes are the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The heroes and heroines of this story are all of you,” he said. “All of you in health care.”

Once the monster is defeated, or at least controlled, the next phase of the story is for a “new order” to form, according to Verghese.

“It is never the case that things return exactly as they were,” he said.

The switch to telemedicine in clinical practice and virtual presentations at meetings like ACR will have a lifelong and profound impact on rheumatology, Verghese added.

“We will never be quite the same again,” he said.

Looking further, Verghese reflected on how history will judge the reaction and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ll get mixed reviews,” he said.

On the positive side, Verghese thinks the science will be seen as “phenomenal”.

“Within weeks of the outbreak, people were working on the genome,” he said.

He added that the speed with which therapies and vaccines were produced will earn the scientific response to COVID-19 an “A+” in the history books.

“On the other hand, history will be very hard on us about our failure to learn from history,” Verghese said.

Specifically, this failure stems, in part, from neglecting to consider lessons learned from the AIDS epidemic, he said.

This, however, should not deter rheumatologists from continuing the fight and making the most of the “new order” that has emerged post-pandemic.

“We all have to answer the call to adventure,” Verghese said. “We must have courage, have faith. We must tell our story. »

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