I’ll be honest — as a doctor, I hate not having all the answers. But it’s important to me to keep reassessing, checking in and updating you as things change.
So today I’ll address some of the questions you’ve been sending me.
I’m Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent. And this is “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction.”
Laura: I work for FedEx as a courier. We’ve been hearing things about there being home test kits for coronavirus and that they would be shipping them through us.
And I was just curious, what are your thoughts on this? Should the couriers be concerned about this?
Gupta: Well first off, thanks so much for your service. It’s so important that essential workers like you not be put at risk.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the first at-home Covid-19 test earlier this month — and I’ve actually done it. It involves spitting into a test tube.
You’ve got to fill the vial up to a certain line — usually takes several minutes — you seal it in a biohazard bag and send it back to a lab.
I can see how it would be scary to transport a package that might contain the coronavirus, especially since a study published in March reported that the coronavirus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours.
But the truth is, you just need to do the same things that everyone should be doing when they’re in public, possibly coming into contact with people.
The CDC [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] suggests wearing a mask, keeping cleaning supplies in your vehicle, disinfecting surfaces often, frequent handwashing and avoid touching your face.
And for people who are sending or receiving packages, also remember to wash your hands after getting a package and staying 6 feet away from your delivery driver, or just having them leave things on the porch.
But I want to say again to all the frontline workers out there, it’s people like you who are making sure that these things are even possible. That testing is as widely available as possible. And that is absolutely crucial to turning the corner on this pandemic.
Mustafa: In some parts of the world, mosquitoes could transmit some viruses such as malaria. My question is, could mosquitos transmit as well coronavirus?
Gupta: According to the World Health Organization, there is no evidence to suggest that this novel coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes.
From what we know about coronaviruses, like SARS and MERS, which is the Middle East respiratory syndrome, as well as this one, too, they are respiratory viruses. They are not bloodborne. That means it’s most likely caught by the virus being passed on through droplets. Say, when you cough or sneeze or even speak.
Keep in mind that in order for the virus to be transmitted by mosquitoes, you’d have to have the virus in the blood, it would have to be able to survive in the mosquito and then it would be transmitted via the mosquito into another person’s body. This particular virus doesn’t behave that way.
So that’s one thing we probably don’t have to worry about.
Jim: The WHO has announced that they do not have any research evidence that you cannot have a repeat case of Covid-19. So if all of this is true, I don’t understand how we ever move past the social distancing. I’d love to hear your feedback. Thank you.
Gupta: OK that’s true, the World Health Organization has said there’s no evidence having Covid-19 once will protect you from getting infected again.
But look, from what we know about other viruses, it seems very likely that people who have had Covid-19 will have some protection. We just don’t know for how long or how strong that protection is.
And because we don’t yet have a vaccine or widely available treatment for the virus, experts have said we might have to keep social distancing for a while longer. It is true the economic and social consequences of that could be devastating, which is why scientists around the world are racing to find a vaccine and a treatment.
And the truth is that there’s been a lot of progress. We are moving faster than ever before toward a vaccine. It doesn’t mean that we’re gonna have one for sure. And we certainly don’t know when.
Our last question comes from a listener with a similar concern.
Chloe: Why are we still seeing the cases of coronavirus go up? If we are all staying at home and have been staying at home for the past month and a half?
Gupta: It is true we’re still seeing cases of the coronavirus go up because it is still spreading. It is a very contagious virus. If we hadn’t stayed at home, we’d probably have a lot more cases.
According to the Johns Hopkins Covid-19 tracker, as of yesterday, there were more than 4.7 million people who had been infected around the world, and over 1.4 million of them were here in the United States. That includes nearly 90,000 people who have sadly died in this country.
But it’s a little bit more complicated than that. Another reason we are seeing cases go up is because we are getting more and more people tested.
It makes sense. You test more, you’re going to find more.
We know there will be people who become infected as we start to open up, no matter when that opening occurs. It’s a question of being able to quickly identify newly infected people, isolate them and trace their contacts.
I know many of you’ve been staying at home — missing school, missing your friends — for weeks, even months. I understand how frustrating it is to hear that despite your best efforts and the hard work of our health care professionals, people are still getting sick.
Coronavirus infections are still increasing in nine states and holding steady in 17 states. They are decreasing in 24 states. But we have to be careful here. We’re still in the early days, and it’s probably too soon to celebrate.
And there’s a concern by many in the public health community that we could see a second wave caused by people getting out too early.
Here’s Michael Osterholm, who directs the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Michael Osterholm, director, University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy: The important message here is this virus is going to continue to try to find more people to infect. Look at the Asian countries, that where supposedly had in place comprehensive programs, they’re still having challenges and problems.
Until 60 to 70 percent of the US population has been infected and hopefully has immunity or we have a vaccine that accomplishes that same 60 to 70 percent, we’re going to be in this fighting this virus.
Gupta: In the meantime, it’s absolutely imperative that the country ramps up testing and contact tracing. The sooner we do that, the sooner we can give people psychological confidence that they are not carrying the virus in their body and that people around them are also not carrying the virus, the sooner we can resume some form of normalcy.
We’ll be back tomorrow. Thanks for listening.