Medical assistance expert urges calm in the face of coronavirus

No need to be overly stressed or anxious, says veteran of several disease outbreaks, including Ebola in 2014

Medical assistance expert urges calm in the face of coronavirus

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

The spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has led many governments, mostly in Asia, to spring into action to contain the infection. A sense of fear has also emerged among the citizens of the affected countries, with offices shut down and emergency lockdowns put in place.

However, an expert is urging the public to remain calm and follow basic rules of hygiene as authorities deal with the virus.

Danny Kaine is head of assistance at Traveller Assist, an international medical assistance and cost containment company, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. He is a qualified critical care paramedic and a graduate of Harvard Medical School’s ‘Preventing the Next Pandemic’ programme.

“Let’s put this into perspective. In 2019, the Centre for Disease Control reports that 61,200 people died from the common flu virus,” Kaine told Insurance Business. “That’s 168 deaths per day, compared to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus that was first reported on December 31, with 213 deaths in total until January 31. Based on last year’s statistics, 5,208 people have died of the common flu in that same time period.”

Kaine shared that he was on the ground in Sierra Leone during the 2014 outbreak of Ebola, and has coordinated several complex medical evacuations for Lassa fever and SARS patients in the past.

“Over the years, I have also personally contracted West Nile virus, Zika, and Malaria due to operating in complex regions, at short notice, for long periods of time,” he said.

According to Kaine, Traveller Assist has received over 30 separate queries from corporate and insurance clients on how to deal with 2019-nCoV. His advice is to remain calm and avoid overreacting.

He emphasised that the 2019-nCoV, while highly infectious, is reported to have a low fatality rate of only 2%, compared to SARS that had a mortality rate of 9.6%, Lassa fever at 10-20%, and Ebola at around 50%.

“It is quite literally my job to stay on top of the latest health issues that threaten travellers around the world, and more importantly, how to respond,” he said.

In order to avoid contracting and spreading the virus, which spreads in the same way as influenza and the common cold, Kaine provided several tips:

  • Wash your hands with soap or use a hand sanitiser that contains alcohol
  • Sneeze and cough into tissues or the crook of your elbow
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially people exhibiting respiratory symptoms and fever
  • Stay home when you’re sick to stop of the spread of any virus
  • Regularly and thoroughly clean surfaces, such as counter tops and door handles, with a disinfectant

“Even though the risk is low right now, it does not mean that the virus will not mutate, and everyone should be armed with the facts,” he said.  “You shouldn’t discount or disregard the virus completely just because you don’t live in or travel to China, but don’t get overly stressed or anxious about it either.”

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