UAB infectious disease specialist answers questions about COVID-19

Expert answers your coronavirus questions

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to climb, so does the number of questions about COVID-19.

Dr. Wick Many, an infectious disease specialist at UAB’s Montgomery office, answered many of your questions.

FULL INTERVIEW: Expert answers coronavirus questions

Many explained why doctors and health officials are treating this virus with such respect, using the term R0, it’s a mathematical term that indicates how contagious an infectious disease is. Many compared it to something we are more familiar with like the flu.

“The R0 for flu is about 1.2. The R0 for coronavirus is 2.2 to 3.5. So, that means that one individual with coronavirus can infect two to three other individuals so it is more infectious than influenza,” Dr. Many explained.

The number of patients who will die compared to the number of cases It’s about point-one. For coronavirus, the early data suggests about point-six. So coronavirus is about six times more likely to cause a fatality than the seasonal flu.

"It’s an airborne spread droplet nuclei, so when you cough or sneeze, or in some circumstances even take big deep breaths and shout loudly, the virus particles are disseminated in the air, and an individual who is in close proximity inhales the virus particles into their nose and throat and the virus can then set up shop and start reproducing itself and eventually cause disease.”

Dr. Many also talked about social distancing, the 6-foot rule, and whether six feet is really enough to be safe.

“Well, that’s now coming into question,” Many said. “The further distance, the better, because the virus obviously has to be projected or propelled out and out into the environment. So, the further away the more social distancing that you can gather or obtain is the better. And that’s also one of the rationales now for wearing masks when you’re in public. The mask is not to prevent you from becoming infected is to prevent others from becoming infected in case you accidentally cough, sneeze or take a big deep breath and making it propel the virus out. “

A lot of questions have been asked about the symptoms of COVID-19, and how long before symptoms are present could a person be contagious.

“First thing is to remember that 80 percent of people who have coronavirus have no symptoms at all,” Many explained, meaning many of us may have already had it and never even known. That means we also have no idea if we passed it on to someone else who could potentially develop severe symptoms.

“So the peak, the average onset of symptoms is about five to six days after exposure. It is likely it is possible that in that five to six-day window before you even have symptoms is that you are contagious to others on the length is around 14 days so that if you have an exposure and do not become ill at 14 days, then you’re probably not going to become ill,” Many continued. “However, you may have had that exposure and been colonized with the virus and had become an asymptomatic carrier. So that’s the reason for the 14-day recommendation for quarantine after a known exposure even that maybe you don’t develop symptoms, but you still became infected.”

Because this virus is so new, and there is so much unknown about it, Many says it’s important to take it, and health officials’ recommendations seriously.

“This is something that we’ve never had to deal with. So we do not understand all of the ramifications, we don’t understand what will be the long term effects,” Many said. “We know really a lot about influenza. So we know what the long term implications are of influenza, but we still don’t understand this disease, and we still are trying to get a grip on exactly how infectious it is and how lethal it is. So I think the new newness of it all demands respect. It’s it demands respect from all of us.”

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