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Coronavirus: Fact, Fiction or Fearmongering

Coronavirus is in the news. How concerned should you be? Dr. Nick Hysmith, Medical Director of Infection Prevention, discusses coronavirus.
Coronavirus: Fact, Fiction or Fearmongering
Nick Hysmith, MD
Nick Hysmith, MD is the Medical Director of Infection Prevention, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. 

Learn more about Nick Hysmith, MD

Bill Klaproth (Host):  The Coronavirus is toping the news every day. But what is the real risk for you and your family? So, let’s talk about the Coronavirus fact, fiction or fear mongering with Dr. Nick Hysmith, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. This is the Peds Pod by Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. I’m Bill Klaproth. Dr. Hysmith thanks for your time. So, first off, everywhere we turn, we hear about the Coronavirus. First of all, how serious is this virus and should we be concerned about its spread.

Nick Hysmith, MD (Guest):  Yes, I think that’s a really good question. I think that it’s a little bit important for us to look at some historical perspectives. So, we know that Coronavirus is a pretty common virus, the garden variety Coronavirus that we see in the United States. This virus is different. It is more like some of the more pathogenic or serious Coronaviruses we’ve seen in the past such as MERS and SARS. But what is good to know is that we are seeing about a 2% fatality rate with this Coronavirus that’s currently spreading. That is significantly lower than the MERS and the SARS virus which were about 30% and 10% respectively.

So, the mortality rate of this Coronavirus is significantly less. I think that the spread and how quickly it spread is concerning. And that’s what has gotten the most attention over the last several weeks to months. We’re seeing a tremendous number of cases in China right at about 73,000 now and it’s just important for people to realize that it is expanding and it’s spreading quickly but the mortality rate is actually quite low. So, that is good for us and I think that we should all just continue to watch that and see how other areas are responding to the spread.

Host:  Right. Well it’s good to know about that mortality rate. That is a statistic we should keep in mind. So, what exactly is a Coronavirus and what makes it different from other viruses and again, why is this one getting so much attention?

Dr. Hysmith:  So, I think we’ve gotten a little bit away from common cold causing viruses at this point, but I think we should all realize that Coronavirus is pretty common in our area actually and it does cause more of a common cold picture with cough, runny nose, fever and that sort of thing. We see about four strains of Coronavirus on average. What makes this one different and what makes it more like the MERS and the SARS is that this is really the first time we’ve seen this Coronavirus in humans. So, viruses are most pathogenic when they jump from animal to human and that very first jump is when we see virus spread like this because the human population doesn’t have any immunity to it. So, that’s why this one is so concerning is it looks like it’s made that jump from an animal to a human and this is the first time that the human race has seen this particular virus.

Host:  So, you were just talking about the Coronavirus spreading. How does the Coronavirus spread and what are the best ways to prevent against a Coronavirus infection?

Dr. Hysmith:  I think the best way is to prevent against the infection are just to when you are sick, when you have a fever, cough, that sort of thing; stay home. Don’t go to work. Don’t go to school. If you children are in school, don’t send your children to school that are sick. Because like I said, the majority of these are common cold type viruses and that’s the way that these are spread. What’s different about these is that we take extra precaution with the current Coronavirus that’s spreading as well as the MERS and the SARS in the past and we tell individuals to stay home, to wear masks if they are out in public and then when they are in the hospital, we have special rooms that these patients are in. But for the most part, just good healthcare etiquette, not going out when you are sick, being sure and covering your mouth when you cough, those sorts of things are the best way to prevent spread.

Host:  Right. So, you said this kind of mimics or starts out like the common cold. What are the warning signs and symptoms then that this is the Coronavirus?

Dr. Hysmith:  Right, I think the big thing now is if you’ve had any travel to China obviously within the last 14 days and you are back and you’re having fever, cough that sort of thing, respiratory symptoms that is concerning. If you’ve had any exposure to anyone who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus, then that would be concerning, and you would need to be evaluated. I think as for symptoms of Coronavirus, like I said, it’s just sort of common cold type symptoms. So, I don’t think unless you had one of those risk factors that I just mentioned, you really shouldn’t be concerned at this point that you have this new Coronavirus.

Host:  So, I know some people have had it and they don’t know that they have it and then it comes on. So, what is the incubation period for the Coronavirus and how does this affect how we prevent the spread of the virus?

Dr. Hysmith:  Right, so it’s looking like the incubation period for this virus is about 14 days. That is sort of what we expect with a virus like this. What is unique about this particular strain is that they have shown that you can actually spread this virus without having symptoms. Which is a little bit unusual. That’s what’s so concerning about travelers coming back from overseas who are perfectly fine and then they go onto develop this infection and they may have transmitted it to other individuals prior to knowing. We do think that you’re probably not very contagious unless you are symptomatic. So, I think that the likelihood of spreading asymptomatically is probably pretty low.

Host:  So, then what should someone do if they have been traveling and all of the sudden, they show symptoms of Coronavirus?

Dr. Hysmith:  I think the biggest thing would be you should be evaluated by your physician. But you should call your physician prior to going to the office because you do not want to expose other patients in the waiting room of the physician’s office. It would probably be a good idea for you to reach out to them and then sort of explain the situation that you were travelling and that you are having these symptoms and see if they would prefer you to come in or possibly get in touch with the local health department.

Host:  So, for someone who does exhibit the symptoms, and maybe they have been travelling and all of the sudden they’re oh, oh I’m getting the symptoms; at what point should they go see a doctor?

Dr. Hysmith:  I don’t think there’s anything unique about the symptoms that you have with this particular virus. I think that anything that you would go see your provider for routinely would be a reason to go see them in this case. If you are starting to have difficulty breathing, where it’s hard for you to catch your breath, if you are having fevers that are uncontrolled, if you are unable to eat or drink; those would be reasons for you to go see your doctor.

Host:  Yeah, that’s really good advice. Well Dr. Hysmith, thank you so much in talking with us today about the Coronavirus. We really appreciate it. Thank you. That’s Dr. Nick Hysmith, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. And to learn more please visit And be sure to subscribe to the Peds Pod in Apple podcasts, Google Play or wherever you listen to your podcasts. You can also check out to view our full podcast library and if you found this podcast helpful, please share it on your social channels. This is the Peds Pod by Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. I’m Bill Klaproth. Thanks for listening.