16:14 GMT01 December 2020
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    2020 Coronavirus Outbreak (490)

    Despite the fear surrounding COVID-19, many of the precautions to prevent coronavirus infection are the same ones used to fight the seasonal flu, Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician and vice chair of the Infectious Disease Society of America’s Global Health Committee, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear Wednesday.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday revealed that the death rate from the COVID-19 coronavirus is higher than previously expected.

    “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a Tuesday press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland.

    The mortality rate is even higher than the infamous “Spanish flu” that killed more than 50 million people between 1918 and 1920, which had a mortality rate of 2.5%. In fact, a comparably deadly disease to COVID-19 is pertussis, also called “whooping cough.”

    However, according to Kuppalli, there is no need to panic at this current time.

    “The one comment I give to everybody is definitely - at this point in time - to not panic. We all need to stay calm. Panic is not going to do anything. However, this [the coronavirus] is definitely not the flu - we know that - and I don't think the comparison to the flu is helpful. People tend to minimize the flu; we’ve seen that happen. I think the important thing to keep in mind, though, is that the mechanisms that we use to keep the flu at bay are the same mechanisms that we use to keep this virus at bay,” Kuppalli told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

    An Ounce of Prevention ...

    “The things that I recommend to everybody are our tried and true things to keep infections away. One, use good hand hygiene: wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. You have to lather and get in between each of your fingers and up into your wrists or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. If you are coughing or sneezing, do so into your elbow. If you're sick, stay home. We don’t want you out and about in the community where you could infect other people. Even if you have a cold or something that is not coronavirus, we don’t want you out in the community, and if you’re sick, also talk to your employer about other mechanisms of being able to work,” she continued.

    There are currently 153 cases of the virus in the US, and 11 people in the country have died due to the coronavirus. Ten of the deaths have been in Washington state and one has been in California.

    “For the flu, we have therapeutics and we have a vaccine. For this virus, we don’t have therapeutics and we don’t have a vaccine, and also we know that people who get this infection can get a more severe illness, especially those who are older and those who have other comorbid conditions like hypertension, diabetes, underlying coronary artery disease,” Kuppalli added.

    According to the US Department of Labor, around 33.6 million US workers do not have paid sick leave, exposing major vulnerabilities in the US healthcare system and workforce. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Wednesday that officials are considering options to support workers without paid sick leave.

    “Diseases such as this tend to affect those who are disenfranchised … So, it is a very complicated situation, and this is a broader discussion beyond just this outbreak. It’s a discussion we need to have in a larger context, and that’s why we need to think about how we are going to handle these things. The CDC  [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has put out some recommendations, hoping that employers will develop and talk to their employees about what to do if they are sick, encouraging them to stay home,” Kuppalli explained.

    According to the CDC’s website, employers should “actively encourage sick employees to stay home.”

    … A Pound of Cure

    Researchers are currently scrambling to develop a coronavirus vaccine. Multiple pharmaceutical companies, including Moderna Inc., Gilead Sciences Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, announced in February they plan to develop treatments. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also announced last month that it was partnering with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., an American biotechnology company, to develop a treatment for the disease. Most recently, Israeli Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis confirmed Thursday that scientists are close to developing the first vaccine against COVID-19, which they believe could be commercially available in as soon as 90 days.

    “People need to take care of themselves. Eat healthy. Try and stay healthy. Those are all things that will help them in the long run. But right now, there are clinical trials going on looking at various therapeutics that potentially could work against this infection. They’re in the process of trying to develop a vaccine,” Kuppalli explained, though she noted that a vaccine is “in the earliest possibility, at least 12 to 18 months away, and that is them working at lightning speed to develop a vaccine.”

    The CDC has been criticized as of late because its testing kits for the COVID-19 coronavirus, made in an unidentified Atlanta lab, were found to be contaminated, resulting in delayed coronavirus testing in the US.

    “There were some problems initially with the test kit, and that’s why they were called back by the CDC. As of earlier this week, testing was being ramped up, and according to my discussions with other people, testing should be robustly ramped up by the end of the week. So, they've been working on that actively,” Kuppalli said. 

    “The second thing is in regards to where to get testing: that should be able to be happening wherever you go. You should be able to call your primary care clinic, call urgent care, call ER [emergency room]. And I would really caution people that if you are concerned about needing to be tested, especially before you go to any of these places, if you’re sick ... please wear a mask, because we don’t want you infecting other people,” she added. 

    “Testing currently is being done by public health departments, but you can’t just go to public health. So, what you need to do is: if you are mildly sick, call your primary care doctor, call urgent care and get some advice. If you are very sick, then yes, go to the emergency room,” Kuppalli said.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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