With states of emergency being declared around the country, public gathering bans being put in place and panic shopping everywhere, it’s fair to say that we all have a lot of questions about the COVID-19 virus.
We had the chance to chat with Dr Karl and ask him all of the questions that our friends of the show have been wanting to know.
How long would an epidemic likely last in Australia?
Dr Karl: “Effectively, it’ll probably last about a year…where it will go around, infect the ones who are more likely to catch it, then they’ll get a bit of immunity then come around in a weakened form year after year. But it’s interesting to find out, which we don’t know yet, the following: Is it like measles? How once you’ve got it you’re immune for life? Or, is it like the flu where it keeps on changing all the time? We don’t know, but we have a hint: it’s an RNA virus. And RNA viruses tend to mutate faster than DNA viruses.”
How long will you have the virus if you catch it?
Dr Karl: “On average around day 6 you will begin to show symptoms. It varies between 5 and 7 with a bigger window from 1 to 14, most people come in around 5 to 7 days. There’s a few outliers that go to 14. Call it day 6, you are infected from day 6 on as well as on day 5. So one day before you show symptoms, you are then infected. On average, you’ve now got a week where your symptoms will range from you hardly notice, you may have a bit of a dry cough, you might not. All the way up to you’re feeling really bad, you want to go to bed, you lie in bed, you’re feeling like you want to die, you don’t die. You might have a bit of difficulty in breathing, and that’s say in the beginning from the first week to the second week, then you get better.”
Who are the most vulnerable to the virus? Are our children at risk?
Dr Karl: “It seems to have very little effects on those under 9. You’re pretty well okay from there until you’re about 20, it climbs a little bit the damage rate when you get to say 30-40 plus. By the time you’re 70 plus, it’s a 5 per cent death rate. By the time you’re 80 plus, it’s a 15 per cent death rate. But this is based on the earliest figures, coming out of China and if we get into it early we’ll be able to reduce those death rates enormously.”
Are we over-reacting if we self-isolate when we have a cough or sore throat?
Dr Karl: “Firstly, we don’t have the mechanism set up yet, even though we’ve had lots of warning to have massive diagnosis. So she’s doing the right thing. She should self-isolate and enjoy the holiday at home. Now, this is okay if you’re working for a company that can afford to pay you and if you’ve got holiday pay or sick leave. But what about people who are casual and who need the money coming in. Mate, we haven’t thought about that. We need to have the government govern to make sure that people who are casual, who live virtually hand-to-mouth are not going to end up being unable to earn money and being booted out to live on the street. We’ve got to govern on that too.”
If we get the virus and recover, are we immune?
Dr Karl: “You’re probably immune once you’ve been infected. We’ll find out more with time. On the other hand, it is an RNA virus and they do mutate. Too early to tell we’re only 3 months in.”
What was the difference between Korea’s and Italy’s response?
Dr Karl: “Firstly, there’s a social ethos. Which is that in the Asian countries there’s a tendency to go for the common good, rather than the rights of the individual…Secondly, their attitude was that they didn’t recognise this as being the coronavirus, they simply said ‘oh it’s just the flu’, which there is grounds for that because the flu does come around in winter. And then they just missed the boat and then they overloaded the hospitals. When they overloaded the hospitals they might have hundreds of people turning up for treatment but there are only enough machines to treat two or three. So they had a really big spike. So what we’re trying to do in Australia by distancing is reduce the spike that goes through the hospital system at any given time and we’ll be able to handle everybody.”
Should we be panicking? We feel like we don’t know what to do.
Dr Karl: “The reason for the panic-buying is there is no leadership from the politicians. The government did not govern. Unlike in Korea, where they said ‘this is what we’re going to do. We’re setting it up, we’re putting the money in here. Follow the instructions, everything will be fine.’ And there was much less panic buying in Korea than there is here.”