In our Health Alert tonight, the CDC is warning Americans to prepare for the coronavirus, saying it’s no longer a question of if this will happen, but rather when it will happen. Even though cases in the US have been contained so far, the continuing spread of this respiratory virus outside China has raised the CDC’s level of concern. Our Chief Health Editor Dr. Partha Nandi joins us now to explain more about this. Dr. Nandi, is the risk to Americans now higher?
Dr. Nandi: No, the CDC is still maintaining that the risk to the general public is low. But we have to face the facts. We’re seeing more and more cases of COVID-19 in other countries. So world travel combined with how contagious this virus is, means that at any point our situation here in the States could change - and change quickly. Now I feel strongly that we should start preparing but please do not panic. Being prepared will help us succeed in containing the virus. We just have to look at the efforts in China which have been working. It’s a great example of what we can do if we are work together and are prepared.
Question: There’s a new research on how the virus might be spread by people with no symptoms, can you tell us more?
Yes, first of all, this is a different case from a previous report that centered around a businesswoman who flew from China to Germany to meet with colleagues. In that case, the woman was actually found to have mild symptoms. Whereas this latest published paper describes how a 20-year-old female traveled from Wuhan, China to visit family over 400 miles away. A few days later, 5 of her relatives developed COVID-19. Yet the young woman herself had no symptoms. A CT scan along with blood work looking for inflammation and an immune response appeared normal. But, a sensitive laboratory test called RT-PCR showed that she did, in fact, have this virus. Now, this does not prove that people with no symptoms can spread this virus. I must stress that we need more research other this one particular case.
Question: How does the CDC want us to prepare for potential outbreaks here?
We first need to think about how our day to day lives might be affected. Hospitals may postpone elective procedures and doctor appointments may happen remotely using telemedicine. People may need to work from home. Schools might be closed and community gatherings like church or places of worship may need to be avoided. Right now it’s important for you to think about what you might need at home if you and your family had to stay there for a week or two. And how a potential loss of wages might affect your household if workplace closures took place. Now, again please don’t panic. What’s important here is to be prepared and have a plan in place.