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Dr. Fauci Just Said Coronavirus Could Be With Us Forever

The nation’s top infectious disease doctor spoke about eradicating the virus.

As coronavirus cases and deaths rise across the nation, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke to TB Alliance during its "Fighting Pandemics" webinar about how we can control the pandemic—and why the virus may never disappear. Read on to see to see why he thinks we'll never eradicate it.


On Why the Virus Will Never "Just Disappear"

Doctors inspecting patient in hospital.

"I would say that I don't think it ultimately is going to be our worst killer because so many people have asymptomatic infection, 20 to 45% of people. It certainly is a killer of those who are the senior citizens. And those with underlying conditions into occasionally you have an exception. We have a perfectly young, healthy person who has a very serious disease and dies. That's a minority of that—but I don't see this disappearing the way SARS one did. The reason I say that is that it is so efficient in its ability to transmit from human to human. That I think we ultimately will get control of it. I don't really see us eradicating it. I think with a combination of good public health measures, a degree of global herd immunity and a good vaccine, which I do hope and feel cautiously optimistic that we will get—I think when you put all three of those together, I think we will get very good control of this, whether it's this year or next year, I'm not certain, but I think ultimately with a combination of good public health measures and a vaccine that we may not eradicate it, but I think we will bring it down to such a low level that we will not be in the position that we're in right now for an extended period of time."


On the Broad Spectrum of Illness

Woman patient receives anesthetic in hospital

"I have never seen an infection in which you have such a broad range of literally nothing, namely no symptoms at all in a substantial proportion of the population to some who get ill with minus symptoms, to some who get ill enough to be in bed for weeks and have post viral syndromes and others get hospitalized, require oxygen, intensive care, ventilation and death. I mean, the spectrum of, of involvement with the same pathogen is very unique. So, I mean, I don't really see this as all of a sudden morphing into a common cold where everybody just gets sniffles and nobody gets seriously ill. I just don't see that happening."


On the Current Outbreak

Florida Health and FDEM COVID-19 Mobile Testing Facility. Walk-up coronavirus testing site at Miami Beach, Florida

"Well, I, there are a couple of lessons, the first lesson I think that we all know, because I think we will, we have all been around long enough to see several unanticipated outbreaks. And that is that outbreaks of new infectious diseases occur. They always have occurred. They are occurring right now. We're in the middle of one and they will always occur no matter how good we are. So the lessons you learn is you've got to prepare the fundamental, basic and clinical research, as well as the public health endeavors. To know that you should anticipate that you will be confronted with novel infectious diseases as we go on. There's no doubt about that. History has proven that time. And again, with regard to the development of drugs, I think one of the things we've learned at least in the arena of vaccinations is that even between outbreaks, you can improve your capability of responding by developing better platform technologies."


On How Long a Vaccine Might Last

Nurse checking a vial of medicine.

"Impossible to tell right now [but] we know that infection with Corona viruses in general, and even some early data with the durability of the response, following recovery from COVID-19 that the duration is not measured in the kinds of things we see with measles, which is essentially lifetime. I would be really surprised. I don't know exactly how long it's going to be. Some early studies say several months to a year or more. I hope it's more than that, but if it isn't, then we'll have to obviously adjust to the situation by booster shots."


On Being in the Spotlight

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Courtesy of NIH

"This is such an important public health challenge that we're facing that this is what I do. This is what I've been doing all my life. This is what I've been trained for. This is what I have all my experiencing, and it would be unimaginable for me, no matter what they throw at me, you know, maybe security or whatever it is. I'm not walking away from this because this is just too important. It's too much at stake for the world for me to walk away from this—not a chance."


How to Avoid COVID-19

woman adjusting a trendy textile face mask behind her ear.

To stay healthy no matter where you live, get tested if you think you have COVID-19, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), wear a face mask, practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek
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