Infectious disease specialists replacing coronavirus fears with facts

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Infectious disease doctors from two prestigious research institutes held an event to share what is known and what scientists are still learning about the novel coronavirus. The goal: to replace fear with fact.

"This is a very scary and fast-moving infection," says Dr, Melanie Ott of the Gladstone Institutes, a biomedical research organization in San Francisco's Mission Bay area.

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Researchers from Gladstone and from UCSF invited the public to a seminar about the virus, how it is spread, and precautions that can be taken. The main message: concern is okay, panic is not.

"There should be no alarm. Flu is a far more major threat to people's lives than this particular coronavirus" said Dr. Warner Greene of the Gladstone Institutes.

Coronaviruses are not new. In fact, they may be responsible for up to a third of the colds that make us miserable. But, this particular strain is new, although it appears related to two previous viral outbreaks.

"SARS 2002-2004 and MIRS, the middle eastern respiratory syndrome in 2012" according to Dr. Greene.

But SARS killed about 9 percent of the people caught it. MIRS was deadly to nearly a third of its sufferers. This coronavirus appears lethal for less than three percent of sufferers.

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In fact, the doctors agree that the flu is a much bigger concern - claiming ten thousand lives just this flu season. And what helps prevent the transmission of the flu virus will work for the coronavirus says, Dr. Greene.

"Wash your hands. Masks are really probably not that effective"

That means soap and water or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

There is no vaccine and current treatment options start with the anti-viral Tamiflu alongside some anti-HIV drugs. But, they are not sure how effective the treatment is. That's why prevention is the key.

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