WATCH: Eyewitness News speaks with an infectious disease expert about a possible second wave of coronavirus

Coronavirus Watch

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — The head of the CDC is warning that a second wave of the coronavirus could coincide with the start of the flu season.

And, he says, it could even be more devastating than what we’re going through right now.

Eyewitness News’ Brandon Bartlett talks with an infectious disease expert, Rik Heller.


Brandon Bartlett: Joining me now live to talk about that is Rik Heller, and infectious disease expert. Now, Rik, this second wave that they’re talking about — officials are saying it can be larger than the first wave. Why is that?

Rik Heller: Well, the first wave really came at the end of what is flu season, and what generally is seasonal epidemics. So, what we got is really the tail-end this time. So, we’re going to see a full-blown epidemic, just like we have in flu, where it’ll peak in February or March.

Brandon: Well, is there anything that we can do right now to stop that second wave from happening?

Rik Heller: Well, you know, we hear about potential miracles — which I would call them — and therapies, and most of all in vaccines. The things that we can do to mitigate… or let me back up for a second, in SARS-CoV-1, they call it in 2003. It was extincted by July. And, it was no small effort to do so, over about five or six countries, the world over, but it was much smaller. And, that particular coronavirus was not as infectious. The things that we can do, are to lower our susceptibility — that would be, to be healthier, to hydrate more, particularly in the winter. Because the reason that it peaks in the winter is, believe it or not, because of dry air. And what happens is, the dry air gets exchanged in commercial buildings many times an hour by law. And, that’s for our health. But, it turns out that that dryness allows a sick person to transmit much more easily to many more people over a much larger distance in a room indoors.

Brandon: As you mentioned, the flu — the flu itself is seasonal. Could the number of COVID-19 cases actually go down as the temperature begins to rise?

Rik Heller: Yeah, well, I think I believe strongly that that is going to be the case now. Going down is one thing. Being extinct is another. And, I don’t think we’re going to be able to get there. But, I want to be optimistic. I mean, I guess there’s a chance. Yes, the case count will go down. We’ve certainly done from a behavioral point of view — maybe not all we can do, but, almost all we can do. And we’ve done an such an excellent job. I must say that flu dropped like a rock over the past three weeks. It’s about 1% of what it was two or three weeks ago. And, this flu been catching… it has caused a lot of death, about a quarter of a million hospitalized. And, that’s just in the U.S. alone.

Brandon: There have been other coronaviruses in the past. What makes this one so powerful?

Rik Heller: Well, we’ve obviously heard more about it because it certainly has claimed more people. There is currently a coronavirus in the Middle East called The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, not to be confused with MRSA — a bacterial infection. And, MERS is zoonotic, which means it comes from animals, and it is very likely camel-born. And so, the Middle East has this, you know, continuing chronic problem. But, nothing of the size of this, and nothing like SARS. And, for whatever reason, they haven’t been able to put it down, where they did with SARS-CoV-1. This is just far more infectious. In fact, this is as infectious as norovirus. And, that’s that that thing the English call, funny-enough, the Winter Vomiting Disease. We see it in some fast food restaurants, and it comes through various different forms. But, it’s it’s not deadly at all, but it’s highly infectious.

Brandon: All right, a lot of great information there for us, tonight. Rik Heller, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I appreciate it.

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(This story was originally published on April 23, 2020)

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