CORONAVIRUS UPDATE (LIVE): 4,093 confirmed cases in the US
A month ago, the Page 1 Podcast brought on Virologist Marylou Gibson to talk about precautions one should take while traveling amid the global coronavirus epidemic. Fast-forward to today, March 16th, and Trump has suspended travel to Europe for 30 days, trade shows across the country—such as the Inspired Home Show 2020—have been canceled, and all March Madness NBA games are postponed until further notice.
To talk us through the most recent developments, the latest guest on the Page 1 Podcast is another Ph.D. Virologist, Vishal Kamar, who joins us on the show to shed light on all things COVID-19. He gives us his specialist take on the severity of the epidemic and does a deep dive into the nature of the virus (i.e. how long it survives outside the body, how it is transmitted, how contagious it is, etc.). Plus, he gives us more precautionary measures to implement as business owners, besides basic hand washing. Keep reading for a Q&A breakdown of the most important facts you should know about the coronavirus.
How did the virus spread to humans?
“So, it was first identified in Wuhan, that’s why it’s called COVID-19 Wuhan coronavirus and the initial observations of where people develop pneumonia without a clear cause and for these existing vaccines or treatments will not affect you.
“…reports indicate that snakes were sold in the local seafood market in Wuhan and I think the possibility that COVID-19 might have jumped from the host species past the snake and then to humans. However, the virus could add up to both cold-blooded and warm-blooded. Of course, it meant some mystery and also the spread of the virus to snakes or bats is not backed up by scientific studies. So far, we decided to have a hypothesis and just the assumption, but we don’t know the exact source of virus but definitely it emerged from the seafood market in Wuhan and that’s what we know for sure.”
What is the contagion rate (R naught) of COVID-19?
“So, in brief, R naught is the average number of people who will catch the disease from a single infected person in a population that’s never seen the disease, meaning that basically how many new individuals can single infected person can pass the disease to. And as you mentioned, different viruses have different R naught numbers and currently from the data which we have at this moment the R naught number of the novel coronavirus is between two to 3.4 meaning that each infected person basically potentially can infect between two and 3.4 new individuals.
“And this is a little bit higher than Ebola and Simplex but there are other viruses like Zika viruses, Measles and HIV which have higher R0 rate compared to the novel coronavirus and the basic reason in my understanding is most of the people who were first encountered with this novel coronavirus, the symptoms are very similar to the flu infection or basically the normal cold or flu infection in general, what we have called it as seasonal flu.
“And that’s how passed on because initially, we failed to recognize it as a novel virus, or this was never seen before. And I think that is the main reason, what I think that led to the outbreak of this virus, also many people are infected with this virus.”
When can we expect a vaccine?
“So, as of today we don’t have a vaccine and so we don’t have a particular vaccine that can combat it… Moderna, now the report is that FDA has completed its view of this mRNA-1273 potential vaccine for this coronavirus and now the reports are that FDA has allowed it to post it to the clinic and basically they are now posting the vaccine into clinics.
“And this is quite encouraging because I hope that this will result in some kind of vaccine or particular Clexane therapy. But not only Moderna, I would like to tell you other companies which to my knowledge are, for example, Gilead, Johnson and Johnson, Vir Biotechnology and few other companies including division NIH are trying to basically test the different vaccine in the phase one clinical trial and in some reports I have also read that some companies are also testing if the already available vaccine, which we have called the influenza virus if they can be also used for the treatment of this virus because this virus shares a lot with the influenza virus and that’s why they’re trying to understand or trying to see that if the correlation also can be used for novel coronavirus.
“And these are quite at one stage and I hope as I mentioned that some people might think that it will not be up to one year. So, we don’t know. It depends on the success of the vaccine if it goes to the different clinical stages and what kind of vaccine is. But definitely I can see a bigger picture that we will have a vaccine in maybe the next three to five months. But that is my calculation depending on the current scenario, but it might take a long road, or it can take even less time compared to three or five months as well.”
What is the true cause of death?
“…what I understand from the infection point of view is that basically when there is virus infected to the system and the person is sick, basically the symptoms are related to the respiratory illness or basically problem in breathing. The reason is that maybe the lungs get swollen because of a lot of immune reactions and it cannot function properly. And one of the reasons is also getting cough into the lungs and that also causes problems in breathing. So, these are different ways how there are basically hindrances in normal breathing. And I guess that’s one of the reasons that lungs are basically interlaid and that basically causes disturbances into normal breathing. So that would be basically a more scientific way to look at it.”
Can the virus come back a second time?
“…both [coronavirus and SARS] are RNA viruses and the mutation in RNA viruses tend to be high but as we did not encounter a second outbreak from the 2002 SARS virus, I would highly doubt that this virus will get mutated and then will come back again because from 2003 until 2020, we didn’t get a second outbreak of the SARS virus. So, I would at least guess that it is highly unlikely that this virus will mutate and then will come back. But definitely there are chances that may be new stent completely different from what we already know from the first month of this novel coronavirus there might be another stent jumping in the near future.”
Do decontaminating surfaces really help?
“… basically, my understanding is that why government officials are taking measures by maybe decontaminating the subways or places for public gathering. One of the reasons is that the subway is mainly the underground trench when you go there, they’re humid in nature and just the winter season is going on. And most of the parts of the world temperature is quite low. So, there is a lot of moisture, humidity in the air and the temperature is not that high. So, one of the things also people think or believe that unlike the last SARS virus outbreak, that when the temperature rises the rising temperature might potentially also reduce the half-life of the virus on the surface or physically in the form of droplets.
“But the basic reason why to do or decontaminate places basically reduces the chances of the virus being present there for a longer time. And this actually, the main reason is that the humidity and temperature which prolongs the half-life of the virus and so with airports or malls basically these are the places where you have a lot of people at one point present while coming for a meeting or while doing or buying or shopping. So these things are just preliminary measures which are taken to destroy the virus spread from one person to another person in the form of… if unintentionally people touch a surface and then basically with the hand touching their mouth, nose or eye that can basically potentially also enter their respiratory tract or respiratory system. So, this is one of the major… and I also I’ve done a lot of reports which also hint in that direction that a rise in temperature might also lead to the reduction in the half-life of this virus as well.”