Announcements, Popular Transcripts FULL TRANSCRIPT: Coronavirus explained

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Claire Reilly:
The Coronavirus outbreak is spreading across the world and it's got a lot of people asking questions. How bad is this? Is there a vaccine and what can we do to protect ourselves? Well, step one, don't panic. We're going to break it down.

Claire Reilly:
First of all what is Coronavirus? Well, for starters, it's a whole family of viruses, SARS, which first hit Hong Kong in 2002, was an outbreak. That was caused by a type of Coronavirus. But the Coronavirus family also includes the common cold. This Coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, China in 2019 and it's a whole new strain.

Claire Reilly:
It's officially known as SARS COV2. Now, the SARS part is confusing. It's not actually the same virus that caused that 2002 outbreak, but it's related. The disease you get when you catch the virus that's called COVID19. Coronavirus, COVID19, SARS I know it's all incredibly confusing, but for a long time health officials didn't actually know what they were even looking at.

Claire Reilly:
They now suspect that it was an animal virus that crossed over into humans potentially at a live animal market. We've seen that kind of thing before with swine flu and avian influenza. It gives us a whole new mutated strain of the virus that health officials have never seen before.

Claire Reilly:
We now know that the incubation period, the time between when someone gets infected and when they start showing symptoms, that could be as long as 14 days. And that's a problem because you could have people that are not showing outward signs of the virus, but are walking around and infecting other people without even knowing it.

Claire Reilly:
And that's why we've seen so many travel lockdowns. In early 2020, countries like the US enforced a compulsory 14 day quarantine. That's the same time as the incubation period. That applied to anyone traveling from known problem areas like China.

Claire Reilly:
And before we start scaremongering, no, it doesn't mean that all the people coming from those places are infected. It's just a really easy way to minimize the spread. You keep the people who may have been exposed away from the people who definitely haven't been exposed.

Claire Reilly:
The only problem is now we're starting to see cases of COVID19 in people who haven't been to China and haven't been in contact with people who have. And that's got public health officials worried.

Claire Reilly:
So what happens to those people who contract COVID19? Well, it's a respiratory illness. So think things like coughing, fever, shortness of breath. It also spreads like other respiratory illnesses. So sneezing and coughing on people.

Claire Reilly:
We don't know how long it survives on hard surfaces, but it's safe to say you shouldn't go around licking handrails. But it's also not a sudden death disease.

Anne Schuchat:
It doesn't seem to be as severe as we first feared, but it does seem to be quite transmissible. And some people have very mild symptoms or possibly even no symptoms at all.

Claire Reilly:
So for some people, it might just feel like a really, really bad cold. But in severe cases, it can lead to things like pneumonia. People have been hospitalized, put on respirators, and according to data from China, 2.3 percent of patients have died.

Claire Reilly:
So who's at risk here? Well, think about like regular flu season. It's the immunocompromised. Elderly people, people who have lung conditions or chronic illnesses. In fact, elderly people with COVID19, they're particularly at risk.

Claire Reilly:
But unlike regular flu season, it doesn't seem to be affecting young people, which is good news. The other difference with flu season, we don't have a vaccine and we probably won't have one for a while because we're dealing with a new strain here, scientists need time to develop the vaccine and put it through tests and trials to make sure it's safe and that it's actually effective.

Anthony S. Fauci:
Although this is the fastest we have ever gone from a sequence of a virus to a trial, it still would not be any applicable to the epidemic unless we'd really wait about a year.

Claire Reilly:
So no vaccine anytime soon, but it's not all bad news. Remember, the CDC said that not all cases will be severe and 2 percent is a low mortality rate, especially when you consider it to things like the most recent Ebola outbreak where 50 percent of people infected died.

Claire Reilly:
But the problem is just how transmissible it is and therefore how many people could become infected. When we start to get into pandemic territory where large parts of the population are getting infected and the virus is spreading across international borders, then that 2 percent mortality figure gets really terrifying.

Claire Reilly:
Not only that, but our hospitals will be incredibly stretched. They will be dealing with a lot of severe cases and they may not have the resources to cope.

Claire Reilly:
So what's the hope here? Well, no, you don't need to go and stockpile six months worth of food. Nobody wants to be eating sardines that long. No, the answer is kind of basic and it's also within our reach. And that's standard public health measures, hygiene, things like washing your hands, do it way more than you think you need to. Soap and water and for at least 20 seconds. And if you can't wash your hands, well, use hand sanitizer. At least 60 percent alcohol and rub it on.

Claire Reilly:
And if you start to feel sick, don't be a hero. Stay at home. Don't go to work. Don't go out in public. Don't catch transport. Yes, you will get very bored. But that's better than being patient zero in your neighborhood.

Claire Reilly:
Isolate yourself at home and make sure you clean high touch surfaces, things like door handles, bathroom fixtures, your phone. And if you do need to go to the doctor, make sure you call ahead so that they can protect themselves.

Claire Reilly:
And one last thing. I can't emphasize this enough. Cover your coughs and sneezes and not with your hand. Just remember to destroy all bacteria (DAB). Door handles, laptops, benches like everything in the bathroom. Sorry, I'm just making a list. We got more videos you can watch here. Couches. I'm going have to wash all the sheets and towels.

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