News

KPTV: Virus expert from PSU talks in-depth on COVID-19
Author: Simon Gutierrez
Posted: March 13, 2020

To read the original, visit KPTV.

As more decisions are made regarding COVID-19, there is plenty of information and misinformation being presented about the virus.

FOX 12 Investigators sat down for an in-depth conversation with an expert in viruses at Portland State University to talk about COVID-19 and what we can expect going forward.

With regard to how this virus is behaving, Ken Stedman said people often turn to the number of people who have died.

Scientists measure that as a case-to-fatality ratio: How many people are dying compared to how many got sick.

Right now, as of Thursday, the virus is seven times deadlier than the seasonal flu. However, Stedman said it’s a lot less deadly than the last major coronavirus outbreaks, SARS and MERS.

“Two major difference in terms of symptoms. The main one is that both SARS and MERS are much more deadly. SARS is about a 10% case/fatality ratio. Not a rate. MERS is actually about 30%. But those viruses are really poor at transmitting from human to human,” Stedman said.

Stedman said COVID-19 spreads easier between people than SARS and MERS, but it’s not nearly as deadly as those conditions.

“One thing to remember is that 80% of people actually have pretty mild disease,” Stedman said about COVID-19. “And if anything, I think that number is probably going to be higher, higher than 80% who have very low amounts of disease, just because, again, we've just been testing the people who already have symptoms.”

Typically, with viruses, you hear that the most vulnerable are the very young and the very old. With this virus, it seems to be particularly dangerous for older people and those with compromised immune systems, but Stedman said it seems children are less affected by COVID-19.

The reason for that isn’t yet clear.

“They're not getting sick, which is great. But at the same time, why is that? So people are actually trying to use that information now to understand how we might be able to treat the disease. Understand what it is about the kids that makes them resistant to the disease,” Stedman said.

So how'd we get here? 

"One way we could have prepared a lot better for this is that there was SARS in 2003. That was what, 17 years ago now? We could have developed some anti-coronavirus medicines since then. We haven't. Or we didn't, I should say," Stedman said. 

A vaccine may be more than a year away, but, as a general statement, Stedman said don’t panic.

“So what I would say, and I've said this a number of times before, be prepared. Don't be scared. So it's clearly a big issue and it's something we need to think about, but being scared, being panicked about it is really exactly the wrong thing to be doing,” he said.

Stedman said to protect yourself and loved ones over 60 years old, be diligent in washing hands, and keep your distance, if possible, especially with a cough.

Stedman said sneezing or a runny nose seem to be lesser symptoms of the coronavirus, compared to coughing.

“If you have a dry cough, I would say stay away,” Stedman said. “That’s what I’m doing with my mother.”

Watch the FOX 12 Investigators full interview with Stedman here.