Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd talks to Dr. Payal Patel Dovlatabadi, about the virus and flu outbreak this season.
BB: Welcome to In-depth. The flu: school districts closing so work crews in search of germs can clean the buildings. And yes add to the mix to the coronavirus and the mystery of how it came about. How was it born? It’s been a tough winter. Joining us tonight is Dr. Payal Patel Dovlatabadi, Director of Health at the University of Evansville. We Just had you two weeks ago, and the very next day news of the coronavirus came out. That has caused a lot of questions, some misunderstandings, and some mysteries. Try to put this in simple terms for us.
PD: Right, so the coronavirus belongs to a large family of viruses that typically occurs and affects animals such as camels and … So we really don’t see it in humans. So this is one of those rare cases where we’ve seen it in humans. The thought is that it’s originated in from a seafood market in Wuhan China but its really not much to worry about here in the U.S. unless you have traveled to China and come back and been exposed in that area. Currently, there are only five people in the U.S. that have been diagnosed with the virus but those were travelers that had went to China. So its really not much of a concern to the public health at this point.
BB: But its sure making news, because of 5 people in a country of 400 million had been affected and there’s one investigation in northern Indiana. What about the mystery in all this? Because even health authorities are not sure exactly where this originated from. They thought it was a seafood market but maybe not.
PD: Maybe not right. The newest report indicates that it may not be the seafood market because of the first 41 cases that were positive for the coronavirus, 13 of them did not have any contact with the seafood market. Just newer information keeps originating its such a new virus. First time it’s been seen in humans and so I think well get just newer and informative information even by the end of the week.
BB: This has an incubation period for how long?
PD: It ranges from 2-14 days.
BB: Okay, symptoms could they mask a common cold… the flu?
PD: Absolutely. The coronavirus, it actually causes an upper respiratory infection. So the main symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Which are similar symptoms to a cold and the flu. Actually major airports across the country are doing temperature screening to isolate people who may have the coronavirus. But again, fever also is a distinguishing symptom of the flu. So it can be mixed up a little bit.
BB: Well you can treat the symptoms but this has to run its course?
PD: Right. There is no treatment at all for the coronavirus. I think they are experimenting a little bit with empty .. medication that were developed to treat ebola. As of now, there’s really no known treatment for the coronavirus it’s just important to take those necessary preventive measures and get rest.
BB: In Indiana, 38 deaths its called a widespread outbreak of the flu also in Kentucky 30 deaths also considered widespread in the commonwealth. Nearly 12,000 with the flu now in Kentucky. With that being said we talked about the flu two weeks ago. Here in the tri-state 3 school districts have or are shutting down for a couple of days to clean there buildings and for one school system McLean county it will be the second time in two weeks they have done this. We’ve already said you have to keep things clean. These are big buildings and were dealing with kids here. Kids are kids so what advice do you have for parents?
PD: It’s important that kids know. You know when they cough, sneeze that they do it in their elbow and not in their hands. They cover their mouth with their elbow. The flu virus can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours. It’s really important to educate kids when they’re at school to do these preventive measures. To consistently wash their hands with warm soap and water for 20 seconds. Engage in those adequate preventive measures.
BB: It seems as though middle school students are particularly susceptible. I mean everyone is suspectable but why is that?
PD: Right and that’s because the dominant strain this year is the influenza B-strain. That tends to target more of the younger population, adolescents and younger. So we don’t really see much of the cases of B-strain in adults. It’s more targeting adolescents this year. That’s why we’re seeing all these flu outbreaks in school.
BB: Weather had anything to do with his? We’ve had temperatures in Evansville here in the mid-70s and then we’ve had temperatures down to single digits almost. Windchills. People like to get out when it warms up. Not a good things is it?
PD: No, not a good thing. Even this weekend weather is warming up which means more people are going to be out and about in malls in .. restaurants and these are places where flu virus is likely to spread.
BB: And you can still get the flu shot?
PD: Of course. It’s never too late to get the flu shot.
BB: How long do you have where that will be fully effective for you.
PD: Well typically flu season tapers off in May and it takes about two weeks for the flu shot to be fully effective once you get it.
BB: Dr. Payal Patel Dovlatabadi. Thanks a lot for joining us again tonight. Hopefully we won’t impose on you too much longer this flu season.
PD: Oh, not a problem.
BB: It’s been kind of unusual this year.
PD: Yes it has been.
BB: Alright thanks for joining us tonight.
PD: Thank you.
BB: You’re watching Eyewitness News at 9 Brandon will be back in just a moment.
(This story was originally published on January 29, 2020)