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Maui Health Interview: Highly Virulent and Rapid Spread Makes COVID-19 a “Perfect Storm”

A radio segment featuring executives and doctors with Maui Health runs Thursdays at 7:19 a.m. on KPOA 93.5 FM.  The series provides updates and answers questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today’s guest is Dr. Lee Weiss, Regional Director of Emergency Medical Services.  In his interview, Dr. Weiss discussed asymptomatic shedders, PPE supplies, COVID-19 vs flu and herd immunity.

Calling it “the perfect storm,” Dr. Weiss said it’s very unusual for a respiratory virus to have high infectivity and to also be highly virulent. He explained that high infectivity means it’s spread rapidly; and highly virulent, means it has a high propensity to cause illness and people die from it.

The feature runs daily at 7:19 a.m. on KPOA 93.5 FM.

Asymptomatic Shredders:

Q: In response to temperature screening being installed in the airports, if you test positive for COVID-19, will you definitely have an elevated temperature, or is it possible to be completely without symptoms, including fever?

A: ” The short answer is the vast majority of people have no symptoms whatsoever and they’re known sometimes as asymptomatic spreaders or Asymptomatic Shedders.  Sometimes people do get fevers and it’s one of the more common symptoms of infections, but it isn’t constant and it’s very variable by age, and so you can’t be certain the absence of a fever alone means that you don’t have an infection.”

Adequacy of PPE Supplies

Q: Do all hospital personnel have adequate PPE (personal protective equipment).  Was there relaxed PPE usage when there were no positive cases in the hospital?

A: “PPE is very serious to front line workers.  Thank God that we have plenty of PPE, and we have a stock that should get us through whatever we need right now.  That’s constantly being evaluated on a daily if not an hourly basis, and arrangements with a supply chain are in place that we can get PPE when we need it.  We know for a fact that the mainland is heating up really, really hard; and we also know that when you see the increased number of cases that we’re hearing about and seeing–not on this island, but on the mainland–that (a) our guard has to be up; and (b) we have to have enough PPE.

“I wanted to dispel this rumor.  We have not lowered our use of PPE.  We have not relaxed our guard.  It doesn’t make us relax our guard by knowing that there have not been any cases for a while; although there has been a recent cluster in the Hawaiʻi community and we’ve all seen it reported.  But it is not a widespread problem on the island now.  The quarantine that the governor put in place is working.  We know that there’s pain related to this, but everyone wants the same thing.  We want health care personnel to be safe; We want the public to be safe; and we want to be strong, smart and decisive.  PPE is something that is at the forefront of everything we do.  Our workers are wearing PPE.  They have no restrictions and no problems with access to PPE.  We are working very hard to keep a very safe, disease-free environment.”

“We will keep on it and keep our guard up until we have this pandemic appropriately in our rear-view mirror.”

COVID-19 vs Flu

Q: How is COVID-19 different from the flu and why is our response to COVID-19 different from our response to the seasonal flu?

A: “The flu is a seasonal virus.  It is a relatively infectious virus, meaning it’s easily transmitted.  But it is not a severely virulent virus, meaning it doesn’t cause lots of people to die. Corona is a novel virus.  There have been no recent exposure of humans to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that’s causing COVID-19–meaning that it was unique.  Humans had never in recent times been exposed to it–so there was no innate immunity in the population of the world.  Meaning the virus would pass from person to person to person without anything stopping it.

“It is very unusual for a respiratory virus–both influenza and corona are respiratory viruses–it is very unusual for them to have two things at the same time.  High infectivity–meaning it’s spread is very, very rapid; and high virulent, meaning it has a high propensity to cause illness and people die from it.  And corona has that perfect storm–no immunity in the population, high spread… high infectivity, and a substantial increase compared to influenza (almost double if not more), causing serious disease and certain patients die from it.

“That’s what makes it so different and that’s why it’s become so dangerous because until there’s more people who have either gotten  a vaccine to induce immunity, or have gotten infected with the virus and have successfully gotten over it and developed what we call innate immunity–until enough people have that… more than 70 percent of the population to develop what’s called herd immunity–all of us are at risk.”

Previous interviews:

  • Thursday, July 2: Dr. Jennifer Mathieu, an OBGYN with Maui Lani Physicians and Surgeons and OB Department Chair for Maui Health
  • Thursday, July 9: Dr. Michael Shea, Intensivist and Immediate Past Chief of Staff at Maui Health.
  • Thursday, July 16: Michael Rembis, Chief Executive Officer, Maui Health: “We Have Not Had a COVID-19 Positive Patient Admitted to the Hospital for Over 70 Days”

*Note: KPOA 93.5 FM is part of the Pacific Media Group family of radio stations.  Pacific Media Group is the parent company of Maui Now.

Original source: https://mauinow.com/2020/07/23/maui-health-interview-highly-virulent-and-rapid-spread-makes-covid-19-a-perfect-storm/

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