Understanding Covid-19

Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently held a conference call with Indiaspora members to discuss the coronavirus pandemic – the disease, its global spread and the public health response. Here are some excerpts from it\

Expert, first-hand and accurate information directly from eminent leaders in the field is crucial during this time of unprecedented global turmoil. Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, who served as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States from December 15, 2014 to April 21, 2017, provided an overview of the current situation surrounding the corona virus. He answered several questions on some common sense steps to stop the spread of the virus, and what to expect next.

Facts about Covid-19

  • Covid-19 has symptoms similar to that of the flu, but there are subtle clinical differences. It is much more contagious than the flu.
  • It is 10 times more deadly than the flu, with the case fatality rate (CFR) approximated to be 1% (1 out of 100 people).
  • The virus causes pneumonia directly (so is viral in nature) and cannot be treated with antibiotics as in the case of normal bacterial pneumonia.
  • Mortality rates show that the virus affects the elderly population much more than children.
  • South Korea, Iran, Italy and Spain have been severely affected.
  • China minimised social interactions and emphasised proactive testing as virus containment methods.
  • South Korea has also implemented strict rules, and the number of new cases has been reduced to less than 100 per day.
  • Italy was not able to tamp down on containment, and their health systems are overwhelmed.
  • People can spread the disease and not even know it; cases are still rising greatly.
  • The known cases are probably only a small fraction of the actual number of cases.
  • Some mitigation measures include social distancing, teleworking and shutting down in-person meetings.


  • Is there any correlation between the virus and the weather?

We don’t know; some coronavirus strains do not do as well with warmer weather. But we don’t know about this one, and hope warmer weather this summer will help.

  • How long do we need to rely on social distancing?

We don’t know; hoping it will only last for about three to four weeks.

  • It is yet to been seen what will happen in countries like China when they begin to resume normal activities.

Social distancing creates anxiety and stress, and has a severe economic impact.

  • Preventative measures?

There are no preventative medications that have been determined as completely effective.

› Everyone should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds after returning home from the outside world.

› Don’t touch your face when you are outside, especially your eyes and nose.

› Make sure to wipe down your phones and keys, not just countertops and appliances that you touch.

› Stay home when you are sick.

  • When is the right time to get tested?

Common symptoms include a dry cough, fever and body aches. If you have these symptoms, call your doctor and get their expertise. It could be Covid-19.

  • Why were we not prepared for this pandemic?

Pandemics are relatively predictable. History shows that there is a pandemic every few years.

They usually happen suddenly however, so stumbles are normal. After the Ebola virus, it became clear that global preparedness and a coordinated pandemic response were necessary.

We need to fund local public health offices and federal offices, need to work with the private sector and need to restore global pandemic offices.

  • How long can an individual be infectious; do people become immune after getting it?

They will be infectious for a few days before symptoms begin, and while exhibiting symptoms. There is no concrete information about whether people become immune.

  • If you are recovering from a health concern that has compromised your immune system, would it help or hurt in fighting off Covid-19?

Unrelated medical problems would not strengthen your immune response. Fatigue and dehydration from other illnesses can, in general, make you more susceptible, but you can recover and build up your immune system again.

  • How is the virus spreading commonly, and is it airborne?

› Physical contact with coughing or sneezing ‘droplets’ from an infected person.

› Metal surfaces and fabrics can hold these ‘droplets’ for hours.

› Covid-19 is not airborne like in measles; it does not have that kind of efficiency.

Excerpts taken from https://www.indiaspora.org/. Please visit the website for more information.

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