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Public Health Club hosts coronavirus Q&A

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The Public Health Club hosted a lecture by Dr. Angela Ulrich ’09 on the coronavirus last Wednesday, Feb. 26. Ulrich is an infectious disease expert and current professor at the University of Minnesota (UMN).

In her discussion, she stated that the common symptoms for this particular virus are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Dr. Ulrich also mentioned statistics, such as that 80 percent of the coronavirus cases were mild and 20 percent were severe – where patients had to be hospitalized. The current coronavirus also goes by the name COVID-19.
Ulrich explained public health strategies used for disease containment, including the need to understand the mode of transmission of the disease. The public must be informed, and know to visit the doctor when they feel sick. In return, the hospital system and staff must be well-trained and prepared to provide care for people with this disease. Doctors are currently working to find a vaccine for COVID-19, but it will take a year before it’s ready to be distributed to the public, Ulrich said.

The World Health Organization (WHO), Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UMN Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy are good websites to use to find more information. Also, citizens should work to reduce stigma and discrimination about the disease, Ulrich said.

“We must expect that there will be potentially many more cases in the U.S.,” Ulrich said.
In the question and answer session, questions that were raised by audience members included: Why are young people not as affected? What ways are people being treated? Are masks helpful? Pros and cons of closing borders? And, what are airlines doing to help prevent the spread?

In response, Ulrich said that young people, so far, have milder cases of the disease. Currently, people with the disease are being treated with supportive therapy. The general population also does not need to be wearing a mask to protect themselves, Ulrich said. This is important because there may be a mask shortage, and masks are needed for healthcare providers.

There is also not a lot of good scientific evidence that closing borders will lower epidemics, Ulrich said. Instead, it merely delays the inevitable spread of the disease. In reference to airlines, they have canceled some flights. When thinking about spring break travel from a public health perspective, there is no concern that the influx of spring break will have an impact on the progression of the disease.

People can protect themselves by washing their hands, covering their cough, not touching their faces and staying home when they’re sick, Ulrich finished.

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