An Infectious Disease Expert Weighs In On COVID-19

An Infectious Disease Expert Weighs In On COVID-19


[Music] Coronavirus is a human virus as well
as a virus that can affect certain animals, and there are two kinds of SARS coronaviruses that
have caused diseases in humans. The SARS-CoV-1 and the one that’s circulating now is SARS-CoV-2.
It’s an RNA virus that causes predominantly respiratory problems. COVID-19, by the way,
is the name of the disease that SARS-CoV-2 actually causes: coronavirus infectious disease
of 2019. The nucleic acid structure is known and we’re still learning about where its vulnerabilities
are. We don’t yet know what kind of anti-viral agents will be most effective. There are clinical
trials that are being done for countermeasures and then of course there are vaccines that
are being developed. So I think whenever you’re confronted with an unknown virus, be prepared
to be surprised in its biology and its pathogenesis. So there are similarities and there are differences.
The similarities of course is that the disease is caused by a virus. The influenza virus
is different from the SARS virus. We don’t yet understand the spreadability or the contagiousness
of this particular virus. One thing that’s significantly different though is the subsequent
problems that one faces if one does get infected with the SARS-V2, and what I mean by that
is that many of the deaths that were seen after the 1918 flu were due to bacterial infections
and bacterial pneumonias. So we really didn’t have adequate therapy for those secondary
infections. Thankfully, now, we are much better in terms of diagnosing the disease, of understanding
the subsequent nature of secondary infections, so there’s a world of difference between what
was happening in 1918 compared to the 2019 outbreak of this particular virus. The lack
of diagnostic tests back in 1918 could have been reflected in the lack of speed of getting
out diagnostic tests in this particular outbreak, but now the community is stepping up to provide
way more diagnostic tests, which is really what we need. We need the data. So it appears
now that the elderly, and I hate to say this, that’s people over the age of 60, are more
susceptible to getting a more severe illness, and it ramps up with age. Over 70, over 80
get more and more severe disease. It appears that children aren’t getting as ill with this
particular virus. So it’s mostly the people who have preexisting conditions, preexisting
lung disease, preexisting heart disease, immunosuppressed patients, as well as healthy elderly. When
we think about preparedness or protection, I like to think of it as in three stages.
One is the individual and what the individual can do is use hand sanitizer or wash your
hands in good old fashioned soap and water, which is equally if not maybe more effective.
One can cover their mouth with either a handkerchief or your elbow when you’re sneezing or coughing.
One can practice social distancing if somebody is ill. Apparently the spread is by droplets
and heavy droplets will basically fall to the floor after a couple of meters. But in
saying that, the virus can live on tabletops and keyboards, on cloth, for anywhere from
several hours to even perhaps several days. So being aware of your surroundings and being
aware of your place in your surroundings. Are you 80 years old? Do you have preexisting
conditions? Have you been in contact with somebody who’s either traveled to an area
where there’s an outbreak, and that could be even in the United States of course. So
being aware of your surroundings and being aware of your place in your surroundings,
very important. That’s what an individual can do. What the community can do is be aware
of folks in the community, people are who more vulnerable, keep an eye out for them.
Businesses in the community can actually put in place work at home policies. And then of
course the federal, state, and local governments are very responsible for getting testing out
and making countermeasures available when they do become available. So preparedness
is not just what you or I can do as an individual, but what our communities and our culture can
do as well as what our government can do. So it’s really an entire population that needs
to be prepared.