Coronavirus in a Global Society

Ian Frank, MD, discusses the global character of the novel coronavirus.

Segment Description: Ian Frank, MD, professor of medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the global character of the novel coronavirus.

Interview Transcript (modified slightly for readability):

The coronavirus epidemic is an evolving story.

We are seeing major public health interventions introduced in multiple countries. We're talking about schools being closed in China, potentially schools being closed in Japan, for months.

Potentially limiting travel either to or from various countries. We’re talking about a big economic impact because we've developed a global economy, where we each depend upon each other. Some products are only being made in certain locations.

Right now, if a product is only being made in China, the availability of that product as a part, may not be readily available to other manufacturers that need that component to produce whatever is being produced. The epidemic is having and may continue to have for some time, a big economic impact.

The number of new infections in China is going down. China may be uniquely effective in controlling the epidemic because it's an authoritarian society. We may not be able to control that as effectively in the United States, where our public health infrastructure isn't developed at a national level, but is really happening on a state level, where individuals may not want to comply with the recommendations that public health officials are making.

Unfortunately, in the United States, the coronavirus epidemic has now become a little bit more politicized. It's more than just a medical issue now. It's an issue that some people think may influence the next election. And we may be developing policies that don't primarily focus on the medical and public health need because of the political implications of a continued or growing epidemic, one that has economic impact.

We're going to continue to be telling this story. It's possible that this becomes a new seasonal viral illness, like influenza. The good news is that already, there are vaccine candidates that are nearing study. And we have an antiviral agent that may be effective in controlling infection. It's remarkable that we can say that we have maybe a vaccine or a therapy that could help control the epidemic.

Although I think realistically, it's not likely that we'll have these agents available within the next six months to be used on a large scale. But it provides some hope that we'll have something available for next season when we see this virus circulating again.