Q&A: Coronavirus expert speaks about the spread of COVID-19 Pandemic
So I'm really confused as to what the difference between a pandemic an epidemic is regardless of. Whatever you call it. People are starting to panic us. Everyone just going to be working remotely and avoiding travel for the foreseeable future. So just how serious is the corona virus situation really for you personally? There's no question. There is not really a sector of our society that has not been impacted by what has happened over. The last several weeks having covered a lot of these outbreaks over the last twenty years. I knew that the economy would be affected. But I don't think anyone could have predicted. Just how badly corona virus fears coupled with an oil price war with tank the markets. What is clear? Is that investors parents. Just about everyone is getting spooked. Look some of it is warranted in. Some of it is not and today. We're GONNA explain why I'm Dr Sanjay Gupta. Cnn's chief medical correspondent and this is corona virus fact versus fiction. Let's start at the beginning or at least as close to the beginning as possible. In December of last year a novel or New Virus started circulating in China and over the last three months virus spread to nearly one hundred countries in regions around the world. More than one hundred thousand people have been infected and around. Four thousand have died when you hear. The global fatality rate is around four percent. Now you have a rough idea of where they get those numbers. Let's also define some terms that are increasingly being used by public? Health officials and I will preface by saying sometimes they sound scarier than they are for example. You may have noticed that. Cnn shifted its terminology yesterday and started calling the ongoing corona virus situation. A pandemic truth is many public. Officials have been telling us that it meets the criteria for a pandemic for some time and I will share those criteria with you in a moment but still we thought long and hard about using this word. This is not a decision. We take lightly. We don't WANNA cause panic. We simply want everyone to be prepared. Individuals hospital systems cities and the country. So let me get some of your questions question. One first things first. What is a pandemic honestly? There isn't a universally agreed upon definition which was surprising to me. Many will describe it. Generally speaking as an outbreak that has spread to several countries incontinence. It typically affects a large number of people. Harvard epidemiologist Mark Lipstick. Says it helps to call a a horse a horse. I think it helps clarify that. It's not a series of locally contained outbreaks and when we see more cases it's not because necessarily those cases just appeared. It's finally testing them. I think the reporting to some extent has been that there are a few hundred cases at most the United States and that you know every day the number goes up a little bit when in fact there may be quite a number of more cases. Testing is critical here and with increased testing. We will certainly have increased numbers of those diagnosed with the infection but that is good news and bad news. The bad news is that the numbers will go up. The good news. Is that many of the people who test positive may not be that ill. And that will bring down that fatality ratio. Remember those numbers. We discussed earlier say that instead of four thousand people dying out of one hundred thousand which is a four percent fatality rate. Say instead it was four thousand people dying out of two hundred thousand. That would be two percent fatality rate. You get it. So it's more people test positive. It may bring that fatality ratio down. Also another important thing about a pandemic is that it does not necessarily mean. The symptoms of an illness are more serious or that the disease is more deadly. The three general criteria for a pandemic are a virus that can cause illness or death sustained person to person transmission of that virus and evidence of spread throughout the world. And that's what we're seeing with the novel Corona Virus. Right now question too. So why is CNN calling this pandemic now? Well words matter on Monday morning we made the decision that many epidemiologists and public health experts had already made to call the novel. Chronic virus pandemic essentially. We checked the final box. We already knew the virus was out there and we recently learned there was community spread after carefully evaluating the global picture. It is now clear. There is spread around the world in one day last week. The number of new cases outside of China was nearly nine times higher than the number of new cases in China. This virus has found a foothold on every continent except for Antarctica and in several countries the number of cases continues to climb again just to reiterate calling it. A pandemic doesn't necessarily mean it's more deadly. It's just more widespread so here. Cnn We knew using the word pandemic was a big decision. But we think it was the right one. Dr Anthony FAUCI Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Thinks the focus should be on what we do going. Forward people call that a pandemic is. Cnn would call a pandemic whol quo pin them. It's not GonNa make any difference with what we do. That's the point instead of people getting all bent out of shape about what you call it. It's a serious situation for sure. Question three so how does calling this a pandemic change things in terms of our response when something is considered a pandemic? It means that we've moved beyond this idea that we can simply contain the virus and now all the focus is on slowing the spread as much as possible. So that would be switching gears from containment to mitigation. Us Surgeon General. Dr Jerome Atoms explained this in an appearance on CNN state of the Union. This past Sunday. Initially we had a posture of containment. So that we could give people time to prepare for where we are right now. Now we're shifting into a mitigation faith which means that we're helping communities understand you're going to see more cases unfortunately you're going to see more deaths but that doesn't mean that we should panic but again it does mean that it is time to start preparing some countries around the world are taking drastic measures some of the largest quarantines ever recorded in history have taken place over the last few months. I in China and now in Italy where the entire country is in a state of lockdown could be recommended in the United States schools might be closed and mass gatherings cancelled in your town. It might mean changes at work or how you work as in working from home it might mean putting off a family vacation or catching up over the phone instead of getting together question for do we have the infrastructure to support this pandemic doctor. I think of the medical infrastructure first nurses doctors hospital beds. Icu beds and I am a little worried about that. For example if lots of medical staff get exposed to the virus and need to be quarantined. We could start to quickly have a shortfall at. Cnn's corona virus townhall last week. I asked Ron Clean about this clean. Was the Ebola response coordinator. Under PRESIDENT OBAMA GETTING OUR HEALTHCARE SYSTEM. Ready for this influx of cases is something we should be doing now. We saw China they. They built temporary hospitals. They really flexed up their capacity. And I think this is the point. We all need to think about the possible impact on our healthcare system is something we should be using this time. We'll cases ramp up to really get ready for the US Department of Health and Human Services is estimating that if this becomes even a moderate pandemic at least two hundred thousand people in the United States could need intensive care. Problem is at the moment. Are Hospitals have fewer than one hundred thousand beds in intensive care units and many of them are being used because we are in the middle of flu season and will need more equipment on hand as well like breathing machines again estimates are that we would need around sixty five thousand breathing machines and we have just barely enough with again? Many being currently used this is all a fundamental part of pandemic preparedness. And we need to be working to address these deficiencies and plan ahead question. Five should the elderly be afraid so many listeners have reached out to ask about their parents and their grandparents. And you know what? I've been speaking to my own parents every day down in Florida. Older people are worried understandably. We've been talking about the elderly in general terms as an at risk population. But I WANNA be clear about who that means when the CDC talks about older adults. They're really referring to anyone sixty years or older. Starting at age sixty there is increasing risk of disease and the risk increases with age the highest risk of serious illness and death people older than eighty years. That's Dr Nancy Mess and the Director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and respiratory disease. She was speaking in a teleconference on Monday. People who are at greatest risk are those who are older and you also have serious long term. Health conditions like diabetes heart disease or lung disease. You might not feel old if you're in your sixties but you do need to take precautions. Dr Anthony FAUCI warned. Even younger people need to think about the safety of older adults they interact with eighty percent of people will do well if they don't have any underlying conditions but you may get infected and then come home and infect your grandmother or grandfather who does have an underlying condition so each family unit each individual has the look about not only the risk for themselves but what risks will they putting the people around them in but just because you're older or have an underlying condition that doesn't mean it's fatal or that you'll even get seriously sick. It means you need to be prepared and take precautions. Use Good Judgment. Stay home as much as possible. Avoid crowded areas especially now and for the next several weeks. Stay away from sick people even if it is a granddaughter or grandson who you haven't seen in a while and if you do get sick you need to get tested and you need to seek treatment. The World Health Organization's Director General Pedro Adam gave races offered some optimistic words yesterday. Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries that threat of abundance has become very real but it would be the first fund music in history that could be controlled. The bottom line is we are not at the mercy of the virus. The bottom line is humanity has overcome pandemics before in this globally connected world. We may be asked to add more social distance between one another but that doesn't mean we still can't collectively come together as a nation and as a world we'll be back tomorrow. Thanks for listening.