14 – 19 February

A snapshot of media coverage on the coronavirus outbreak:

Jimmy Whitworth speaks to…

(19/02) CBC News about the strain placed on China’s health services as a result of the outbreak. Jimmy said: “As seen in China, this virus can spread rapidly in populations, and can cause a major strain on health services simply by the sheer number of cases.”

(18/02) BBC News about the situation on the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship. Jimmy said: “It was absolutely the right thing to do to quarantine the ship because we need to protect the health of the general public. But it is clear that the measures have not stopped all transmission. We need to remember that most people on that ship are still uninfected, so it has been successful to some extent.”

(18/02) Reuters about the decline in new cases. Jimmy said: “We can hope that the reports of falling numbers of new cases in China do show that the epidemic has peaked in Hubei province, but it is still too early to be sure.”

(18/02) Daily Mail about the challenges of containing infections in confined spaces, amid over 500 people testing positive for COVID-19 on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Jimmy said: “Cruise ships are crowded and people are very close to each other. This is a respiratory virus so it’s going to be spreading by droplet spread, close contact and contaminated surfaces about the place. This virus is highly transmissible and is tough to control in this circumstance.”

David Heymann speaks to…

(17/02) The Guardian about the difficulty in predicting the ease of COVID-19 transmission amid concerns over the disembarkment of passengers from the Westerdam cruise ship in Cambodia, after one passenger later tested positive. David questions: “Whether the countries where [departing passengers] go have the proper surveillance systems in places to detect and test those people should they develop any kind of a fever or any signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection?”

(17/02) Reuters about the role urbanisation plays in facilitating the spread of diseases such as coronavirus. David said: “Urban areas are unique and must develop solutions in addition to strong disease detection and response systems to rapidly control emerging infections.”

Adam Kucharski speaks to…

(16/02) The Sunday Times about the importance of collaboration in epidemiology, citing the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Adam said: “You have to be careful about numbers. I’d compare it to the 2014 Ebola outbreak: at one point we saw cases tailing off. Then we realised a hospital had filled up, so it simply wasn’t reporting any more cases.”

(15/02) Newstalk (from 16:11) about how mathematical modelling is helping to map the spread of diseases such as COVID-19. Adam said: “We can distil it down to a few key numbers. One of the key values we look at early on in an outbreak is the reproduction number… But it’s not just the amount of growth that we are concerned about, it’s also about the speed at which it happens – the generation time.”

John Edmunds speaks to…

(16/02) The Sunday Times about the likelihood of the coronavirus spreading throughout the UK. John said: “It doesn’t mean to say everybody is going to be seriously ill. The vast majority would have mild illness, a cough and a cold, then recover and be perfectly well.” John’s comments were also picked up by The Sun.

(15/02) BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme (from 50:30) about the likelihood of the coronavirus outbreak becoming a pandemic in the UK, following projections of 50% of Britons being affected. John said: “Based on what we know at the moment that is a distinct possibility. Rates of illness could be as high as that. It may be significantly lower but it doesn’t mean to say everybody’s going to be very seriously ill.”

Other LSHTM experts:

(18/02) Preliminary research by LSHTM’s Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases on the projected peak of the outbreak features in Nature, Bloomberg, The Times of India and The Japan Times.

(14/02) Ed Parker discusses his motivation behind developing a new coronavirus mapping tool on BBC World Service. Ed said: “I started following the story just at the same time as the rest of the world but I didn’t feel I was getting more understanding of the disease with each passing headline.”

Further LSHTM coverage:

Analysis by LSHTM on the proliferation of counterfeit medicine in sub-Saharan African featured in The Conversation.

Martin McKee is quoted in The Guardian about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes.

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