In 2017, Michael Osterholm released a book titled Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs. In this book, he talked about a virus pandemic with its origin in China. He has been providing information about such viruses and in recent times, his predictions have been witnessed across the globe.
Michael Osterholm, a public health scientist and expert in infectious disease, spoke on The Joe Rogan Experience about the coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, it's origin, how to prevent it, and the preparedness of the US. The Center for Infectious Disease Research Policy (CIDRAP) director referred to himself as a “medical detective” and tackled all the myths and truths surrounding the developing coronavirus outbreak.
According to Osterholm Ph.D, M.P.H, who has worked on many virus-related cases for decades, the virus is in its initial stages and determining the pain, hurt and fatalities it has caused is still not precise. "In terms of the hurt, pain, suffering, death that has happened so far is really just the beginning. This is going to unfold for months to come. We’re gonna be in some hurt for the next few months." warned Osterholm.
The virus transmits as easily as the influenza virus. Most people tend to compare COVID-19 with the flu which kills thousands every year. However, Osterholm says that the coronavirus could be 10-15 worse than the flu in terms of fatalities. Speaking about what the projections and estimates look like, he said, “This could require 48 million hospitalizations, 96 million infection cases, and over 480,000 deaths, that can occur in the next 3 to 7 months in this situation.” He added that this should not be taken lightly.
A few weeks ago, America was watching as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in China and parts of Europe. Today, the US is vigilant in testing for the virus and is on high alert with major events canceled including the suspension of NBA and NHL. Italy has made headlines with the increasing infection cases and fatalities that have lead to a virtual shutdown. Hospitals are working around the clock to try and curb the spread of the virus with medical practitioners carrying the burden and are not being screened because their expertise is needed to take care of the situation as long as they are not severely ill.
There has been a rumor that the coronavirus is an old people disease. Well, statistics show that there have been a significant number of old people fatalities in Wuhan, China. One of the risk factors of dying from the virus is being old. However, Osterholm, a Regents Professor, said that other underlying conditions increased the risk. For instance, a good number of old people who
Most viruses have an incubation period. This is the time between when a person is first exposed to the virus and the time they fall sick. For the coronavirus, the incubation period stands at about 4 days. Osterholm emphasized that during the incubation period, the infected person is still contagious and that this is what is causing the rapid spread. He said that the virus might be around for 6 months or more and that, “There is so much misinformation right now, and we are going to be in this for a while. This is not going to happen overnight. People are handling this like its a coronavirus blizzard, you know, two or three days, we’re back to normal. This is a coronavirus winter and we are going to have the next 6 months or more that are going to be like this.”
His center put out information about the virus and how it will unfold and said it will spread worldwide but most people downplayed the information. The virus has a doubling time which means that infection cases will be doubling after a couple of days and this is the kind of information that the public needs to be aware of especially because it might take some time to build significant numbers. However, with time, numbers will jump from hundreds to thousands, and keep doubling up.
According to the medical expert, the use of gloves and surgical masks is not effective in preventing COVID-19 infection. Referring to a study in Germany that involved people who just tested positive, He said that the moment some of these patients started feeling the effects of the virus, they had incredibly high amounts of virus even without symptoms. This is the kind of transmission that scares the medical world because people can transmit the virus even without noticeable symptoms.
One of the best ways to prevent the virus is to stay away from large public spaces especially if you are over 50 or have an underlying medical condition. Unfortunately, most American have an underlying medical condition since most people are dealing with diabetes and high blood pressure among others.
Osterholm says that closing schools might not be an effective approach. The reason being that kids are not getting sick. Though they might be getting infected, they are not getting sick. He compared it to hepatitis A which can infect kids and not make them sick but make parents and daycare attendants sick.
Statistics show that 38% of nurses working in hospitals in the US have kids in school and when schools close, there will be no one to take care of them at home forcing the nurses out of work. 25% of American have no sick leave and when they have to stay at home and look after these kids, they will not get paid.
The best approach will be to tell people to limit contact as much as they can. Avoiding crowded places is a good way to reduce the virus spread./p>
Despite warnings from the CDC and experts like Osterholm, the United States, and the world at large is not prepared enough for the virus. Apart from the actual sickness and deaths caused by the virus, other factors will emanate from the virus and cause health issues. For instance, there are about 150 critical drugs that people need to live. These drugs are largely generic and a good number of them are made in India and China. Normally there are shortages for these drugs, but with this crisis, things are going from bad to worse. “It’s not just about what the virus does to you. It’s about what the entire system is rigged up to be and what this virus does once it gets on to it.”
While saunas can make you feel good and relaxed, there is no medical proof to support the claim that it can kill the coronavirus. This is just part of the misinformation going on that is leading people to do things that do not help.
So many myths have been doing rounds, especially online, where people are spreading all manner of rumors. One of them is that the coronavirus is a biological weapon that was created in Wuhan, China. According to Osterholm, there are modern ways to check whether a virus was biologically engineered to be a weapon or whether it is natural. The technology shows that the disease jumped from an animal into a human being and there are coronavirus strains in animals such as Pangolins and bats. This process is referred to as zoonosis and the virus is referred to as zoonotic.
About 0.1% of people who catch the flu die. With coronavirus, the statistics from China are at 2-3% fatality rate. The statistics are not yet clear because the virus infection is still in its initial spreading stages. Chances are that people who will get infected with COVID-19 and recover will reduce the infection since they will have natural immunity. As Osterholm said, "it could be 10-15 times worse than the flu."
According to Osterholm, though there is no sure way to protect yourself medically, it is important to have a strong immunity when dealing with the coronavirus. Some of the things that one should do include staying fit, eating healthy, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep. The best is isolating the sick and reducing your engagement in large public spaces.
Hand sanitizers are important in fighting germs but this, being a respiratory virus, will not significantly reduce the risk of getting infected. However, you should still wash your hands for hygiene purposes.
Osterholm says that the surgical masks are designed for surgeons and their construction will not protect you from the coronavirus. The masks allow air through the sides and this renders them ineffective in protecting the wearer from the tiny droplets that carry the virus. What people ought to be using are called N95 respirator masks, which are highly effective because they have side seals. The major problem is that there is a shortage of the N95 respirator masks. Some hospitals have dire need for these masks and most people around the world cannot access them. An additional problem is the impact of the virus in China, which is a major supplier of such masks. Most countries import the masks and cannot set up manufacturing facilities to make the mask within a short period.
One major problem that Osterholm points out is the unpreparedness in the medical industry. “We cannot wait until the crisis comes to fix these things.”
The market has crashed and the stock market halted due to sharp falls. Osterholm insists that the country has just started experiencing the effects of COVID-19 and these are things that could have been avoided if the medical department was adequately prepared. The best approach to such a development is to tell the people the truth. This way, people will know what is happening and will be better prepared unlike leaving people in the dark as this stirs more panic than telling them the truth.
Currently, there is no vaccine for coronavirus. It is not something that will show up soon because the strain is new and scientists need time to come up with an effective vaccine that works without side effects. Safety is also a key factor, which is why there have to be multiple tests before a vaccine is officially used. Another challenge is the anti-vaxxers. These are people who look at vaccines as conspiracies and avoid different vaccination processes. Even with a coronavirus, misinformed people may still keep the virus alive.
Osterholm repeatedly mentioned preparedness including creating vaccines for different infections and says that, “Imagine if we had to go out and buy a firetruck only when a 911 call came in, we need to do it now.”
Osterholm, in his book, predicted that a virus pandemic would come from China. He says this is based on the fact that there are large ‘wet markets’ where wild animals are sold for food. These markets and the contact between humans and animals increase chances of zoonotic viruses.
In conclusion, Michael Osterholm stated that the best solution is to start researching now. There have been many viruses, such as the Zika virus that affected a large part of the population and researchers were working on a vaccine. Once the virus disappeared, the search for an effective virus somehow disappeared with it. He said that the main problem is that most vaccine searches disappear with the virus only for it to come back later in a different strain. With an effective foundation, it would be easier to improve on the existing vaccines to combat new strains.
The general public must be informed. This is a virus that should not be downplayed using ‘low risk’ narratives. People are dying and it does not get any more serious than that. Know what the virus is and know how to reduce the risk of infection. Knowing the truth reduces the chances of mass panic because people will be prepared and will have an idea of what to expect. Misinformation, half truths, and no information at all are what spark mass panic.