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Huntington Hospital Doctor Explains: “Why We Are Being Told to Practice Social Distancing”

Infectious disease doctor talks local readiness and how global warming could have contributed to pandemic

Published on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 | 6:28 am



Dr. Kimberly Shriner

On Monday, Pasadena Now News Desk Editor David Cross interviewed Dr. Kimberly Shriner, an infectious disease doctor at Huntington Hospital. Shriner discussed several issues related to COVID-19. This is the first part of that discussion.

On Social Distancing:This virus does appear to behave from an infectious disease standpoint, like other coronaviruses in that it’s transmitted by droplets. So it’s suspended in mucous in people’s mouths when they sneeze or cough and the droplets fly out of their mouth and hit somebody else, then that person can become infected. It is not an airborne disease like measles or chicken pox or even tuberculosis. Those diseases, the particles are suspended in the air. And so, just being in the same room with somebody, even if you’re far enough away from them, you can become infected. This virus is not like that at all, which is good news, because we know that with some relatively simple techniques such as social distancing, having people cough into their arm and not into their hands, they can really decrease the likelihood of another, of infecting another person.

Is Huntington Hospital Ready to Handle This?
We’re ready to handle this. You may have seen that Huntington has two tents out in front of our emergency room. They’re not being used right now, but they’re there in case we have a large influx of people that we have to screen for this disease or or triage them as to whether or not they should be admitted. One of the biggest problems right now for hospitals and physicians is the inability to get testing and the department of Health and Human Services is trying to ameliorate that. We just really got behind on that and that’s been a real challenge to catch up there. There’s been a lot of emphasis now on trying to make testing more accessible and have a faster turnaround. Right now a lot of the testing takes 48 to 72 hours. Some institutions are beginning to ramp up their own testing which is great, and certainly the commercial sector has tests available, but it’s been a huge, huge problem to do testing.

Any Big Myths you would like to Dispel?
There’s no evidence that this is a bioterrorist weapon. These things are not very good as a weapon of mass destruction because they can get away from [the people that create] them. So there’s no evidence for that. This is clearly what we call a zoonotic infection. It comes from bats. Bats are a common vector for a lot of viruses. Bats are a very healthy, and good, part of our ecological system because they take care of other vectors like mosquitoes that carry their own whole host of diseases. But bats are also able to carry viruses. They actually don’t get sick with them, but they carry these viruses around. This is very clearly related to the chrysanthemum bat, which is a bat in Southeast Asia.

And this won’t be the last one. HIV was a zoonotic infection. It came from chimpanzees early on. We’ve done this before. We just have to pay attention to preserving our environments and trying to turn around global warming. Global warming leads to the emergence of more vectors for diseases and destroying the natural resources we have is when humans begin to encounter viruses in animals that were isolated in rainforest and so forth, and now can become sick with it. So it’s all interrelated.

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