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Health experts face more questions than answers over the coronavirus

Posted at 9:39 PM, Feb 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 10:02:37-05

NORFOLK, Va. -- The coronavirus shows no sign of waning or slowing down as cases continue to increase and the virus crosses international borders.

There are more than 78,000 cases of coronavirus, but just 59 of those are in the United States. People have questions about this virus, and they’re turning to health professionals for those answers. Those same health professionals are asking some of those same questions that have no answers just yet.

"How can we stop it, what exactly do we need to do to stop it and then how can we prevent it?" Dr. Brian Martin, PhD, a professor and director of the Master of Public Health Program at Eastern Virginia Medical School, asked. "How can we develop a vaccine that would allow us to vaccinate people so they don’t get it or at least reduce the symptoms of getting it?”

These kinds of questions are not just being asked by the professionals; they are also being asked, and wondered about, by the general population.

Faith Jones, a local mother, shared her concerns.

“My concerns are that there’s probably a little bit more information that should come out," Jones said. "I think that everybody just needs to calm down, be aware, get the details, get the virus under control as best you can.”

Martin said health experts are continue to find answers to some questions each day as more is learned about the virus. So, what is being done to answer these questions?

“We’re collecting data and how is this virus being transmitted," Dr. Martin explained, "how quickly, effective is it jumping from person to person, and that helps us with understanding the behaviors of the virus.”

He is referring to data collected and shared from agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said the agency changed its position on the virus. Instead of asking whether this virus will spread, the CDC is asking: When will it spread and how widespread it will be?

“I do trust the CDC and our federal, state and local health agencies," Dr. Martin said. "I do believe that we are doing a tremendous amount of activities to try to increase preparedness and to do planning."

On Friday, North Carolina's Department of Health said the state is prepared to handle the coronavirus. Dr. Elizabeth Cuevo Tilson, the department's health director, said the risk to the state is low.

"At this point there isn’t anything in the United States to be panicked about," Dr. Martin said, "but we certainly need to be preparing and taking precautions.”

On Wednesday, March 4, EVMS will host a Public Health Panel on the coronavirus. It will consist of medical experts from EVMS, Sentara and other public health agencies that will discuss more about the coronavirus and plans to mitigate it.

The forum is open to the public, but anyone interested needs to reserve a spot to attend. Click here to reserve your spot and for more information. The discussion goes from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.