Eyewitness news Brad Byrd speaks with Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi about the coronavirus in the Tri-State.
BB: Welcome to Indepth. It is causing concern, fear, political warfare and questions that still have no clear answer. Coronavirus is now dominating our news after emerging in our vocabulary early this year. Tonight I’m joined by our guest health analyst Dr. Payal Patel-dovlatabadi, associate professor of public health at the University of Evansville. She is our go-to person to get answers on this. Dr. Payal consider this one of the first virologists who started studying coronaviruses back in the 1970s said this, most likely in the United States will become widespread by as early as late March and April. What do you say to that?
PP: Yes. that’s correct and the reason for that is people continue to travel and those who travel abroad have a greater likely hood of being exposed to the virus. When they return it may be spread to others. The incubation period varies for the virus. So individuals who are exposed may exhibit symptoms as soon as two days or even as late as seven days. On average 14 days. It may take a while to identify those who have the disease and thirdly there has been some glitches lately in testing for the coronavirus. So those have kinda been resolved and as testing continues were most likely be identifying more and more cases.
BB: This seems to be popping up rather slowly 3,00 deaths worldwide. Six now in the United States. Why is that? I mean six deaths is six too many in a country with 300 million people. Why is this such a slow speed but it is growing?
PP: It is growing an again travel is a large component of this. Those who have traveled to those higher risk areas were the ones that returned to the US and we were able to identify those. But now we’re really testing those secondary cases who have contact to those individuals. As more and more individuals return to higher populated cities like New York and the state of Florida we’ll continue to see an increase In those numbers.
BB: Northern Italy shutting down some businesses, public sporting events. The summer Olympics talked that they may be at risk in Tokyo. School in Florida ordering up ipads to give to students to take home if they have to shut down schools. Did all this preparation.. it seems like this is all happening at once. Does that surprise you?
PP: Not at all its actually very important any time any type of outbreak potentially a pandemic with the coronavirus to have contingency plans in place. Engaging that disaster preparedness. Its always good to have that planning in place so we know what to do. Schools and universities across the country are contingency planning say if an outbreak were to occur here what would we do? So it’s always important to have that in place.
BB: Does happen here, lets put this in context now. It seems like we have two extremes here. is there some middle ground? there is the extreme of people possibly panicking.. the extreme of people ignoring this blowing this off. How at risk are we here in the tri-state?
PP: Right. Communication is very important. There’s a lot of misinformation in media currently but the CDC has said the risk in the US and even this area is actually low. But we need to take those necessary preventive measures. Effective hand washing for at least 20 seconds. washing thoroughly, sneezing in your instead of your hand. A recent study found that the coronavirus can live on surfaces as long nine days.
BB: Compare to that to the flu is that worse?
PP: The flu is 24-48 hours. So yes it’s much longer compared to the flu.
BB: And just the simple task in this fast past world that we live in washing our hands okay. 20 seconds is usually the norm. Put that in perspective that’s like singing happy birthday twice. But you’re saying in this situation you may want to add another track to that.
PP: Absolutely, make it 30 seconds and wash thoroughly. Wash your palm and wash the back, middle of the fingers and under your nails. Washing very thoroughly is the key. if washing your hands is not an option then hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
BB: You were talking about the face mask and if you show no symptoms then you really shouldn’t be buying those because you could actually contributing to the problem elsewhere. Tell me about that.
PP: Yes. Actually the surgeon general made a statement this morning saying that if you do not need a face mask don’t purchase them. There are providers, health care providers who need those face masks. There’s currently a shortage. So a face mask isn’t going to do anything unless you are sick.
BB: Getting back to vacations were coming up on spring break. People make plans they go to places like Disney World. People taking trips unnecessarily just by plan .Just getting into the car possibly by train, going to larger much larger cities. Okay, how do you protect yourself?
PP: Again, just like the flu any time you’re in a closed space you’re increasing your risk of getting a type of disease or a virus. So again, those necessary preventive measures are key. Obviously avoiding travel in high-risk areas.
BB: If you already made plans, say to like New York City that’s got a few people in Manhattan. It is very compressed. Millions of people just on that island there. What do you do in a situation like that if you’re in an unavoidable area for risk?
PP: Right. New York currently, just saw its the first few cases. Again it very very low number of cases so the spread isn’t going to be widespread for some time probably. So again those necessary preventive measures. If you do not feel comfortable traveling many airlines are exchanging trips for .. period of time. So those are some options available.
BB: Don’t panic but don’t ignore it. Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi, thank you as always for being here tonight and keeping up to date on something millions of us didn’t see coming. You’re watching Eyewitness news at 9 Brandon will be back in just a moment.
(This story was originally published on March 2, 2020)