NBC Connecticut spoke with Dr. Albert Ko, a leading epidemic expert from the Yale School of Public Health.
Ko has worked with the World Health Organization (WHO), and was with the Brazilian Ministry of Health for 15 years. There, among other things, he battled the deadly Zika virus. Ko answered some of our viewer questions about coronavirus.
How is coronavirus transmitted?
DR. ALBERT KO: "It's passed through what we call respiratory droplets. So if I sneeze or I cough and you're within 6 to 10 feet of me, you're at risk of catching the virus. The other way it happens is through direct contact. For example I touch my nose or my mouth I have my secretions that are filled with virus and then I shake your hand and then you touch your nose and mouth, that's the other method. The third is that if the virus is on a frequently touched doorknob and people come by there that's another mechanism."
How dangerous is coronavirus compared to the seasonal flu?
DR. ALBERT KO: "This is a concerning epidemic it's now called a pandemic by the WHO. We're concerned because it's transmissible. It's probably more transmissible than the typical seasonal flu that we have. And the other thing that we're worried about is the death rate….we're still getting more evidence, on how that, what that exact number is, but it does seem higher than what we see for the seasonal flu. And that really kind of concerns us, because you can imagine how many Americans that will get infected, and among those, how many get sick, and of those, if a significant proportion, whether it's one to two percent , you know, die from the disease. That's a major public health problem."
Who is most at risk from the threat of coronavirus?
DR. ALBERT KO: "The good news is that children, and young adults you know they're actually, have very few. So the risk of dying from this is very small. And actually the risk of being hospitalized or having severe pneumonia having to go to the intensive care unit is actually quite low in that age group. What we particularly worry about are the elderly, people over 60 years of age, 70 or 80 years of age where the death rates are actually quite high among those. And those are the most vulnerable. When we're thinking about this epidemic, right? Impending epidemic in our communities."
See more of Dr. Ko's interview below: