Local doctor says not to panic about coronavirus


PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Coronavirus is causing a panic across the country, as five cases have been confirmed in the United States as of January 29th, 2020, with 92 patients still under investigation.

However, one local doctor says the disease is probably not as dangerous as some may think.

“Our influenza A and B on a normal year is probably more lethal than coronavirus is,” said Dr. George Helmrich, the Chief Medical Officer at Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Helmrich says it’s believed that the spread of the virus began with the human consumption of infected bats in Wuhan, China. Now, it’s being spread as an airborne illness like the flu, but he says there’s no need to panic even amid the high number of infections.

“The larger the number of people that have it, it tells us the death rate is much lower,” he said. “So, it’s probably a not very lethal virus.”

He thinks the concern stems from the links that have been made between coronavirus and the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome, better known as SARS, but he said even then, we’ve seen worse disease outbreaks in recent years. 

“Ebola virus, if you’ve got it, you’ve got about a 63 percent chance of dying,” he said. “With SARS you’ve got about a ten percent chance of dying. It looks like, if you get coronavirus, it’s much, much less.”

When it comes to prevention, it’s just like preventing any other flu-like illness. 

“It’s flu-season, do the same things you’d normally do,” said Dr. Helmrich. “Wash your hands frequently, just [practice] normal precautions and enjoy life.”

Other ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus and the flu are to wear a mask if you are exhibiting symptoms, as well as to avoid contact with sick individuals.

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