A virologist’s view on COVID-19

As the world wrestles with the current public health crisis, its crucial to have accurate information and balanced perspectives on the situation.

At Murdoch, we’re fortunate to have some of the world’s leading health, biosecurity and environmental experts.

To get a virologist view on COVID-19, we caught up with Dr Chris Smith, consultant virologist at Cambridge University, founder of the Naked Scientists podcast and Sir Walter Murdoch Distinguished Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University. Here he provides a clear explanation of what the virus is, how it spreads, what we can do to protect ourselves, and a reminder to remain rational.

Keep a sense of proportion here, because remember that 99 percent of people who catch this are going to recover completely uneventfully,”

"More than 80 percent of people will have very trivial symptoms indeed. The about 20 percent – one in five – who don’t have trivial symptoms will, nonetheless, go on to recover. Only about a fifth of that fifth of people who catch this – so a single number percentage - are going to have really severe problems.

“Those people are largely going to be those with pre-existing health problems. So, if you’re in that group, take steps to protect yourself to the best extent that you can and let’s hope that we can come up with a vaccine that can protect that particular group of people before too long.”

So, what can we do to protect this vulnerable group? The best course is to follow public health guidelines on physical distancing and self-isolation.

If we make it harder for it to jump from person to person, we’ll at least slow down and possibly even stop the transmission. That’s the goal of the current mechanisms and strategies that have been put forward by a range of agencies to stop this.”

If we all follow those strategies, and vulnerable groups limit their own exposure to potential risks, we can collectively protect them.

“The aim is to try to protect older people by urging them to stay away from areas where they might contract the virus and, in that way, even if younger people contract it and become immune, the older people will eventually become protected by the herd immunity that grows in the population.”

Posted on:

20 Mar 2020


Science, Health, Research

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