January 22, 2020

coronavirus photo illustration

***This post was last updated, Thursday, Feb. 27***

The outbreak and global spread of a deadly coronavirus has dominated news coverage in recent days and generated numerous questions about prevention, surveillance and transmission around the world.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and health policy professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has been a popular resource for journalists and the public in answering those questions.

Since the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, the disease has been attributed to more than 50 deaths, as of Jan. 26.

Here is a collection of news coverage featuring Dr. Schaffner,


Bloomberg: What is a coronavirus?


NPR: Coronavirus FAQ

Will a mask help? Is the coronavirus a novel infection? Questions and answers featuring Vanderbilt's top infectious disease expert and health policy professor.



CNN: Coronavirus much more contagious than initially thought

What new details about the incubation period tells infectious disease experts.



New York Times: First patient identified in U.S.

A man in his 30's became the first person identified in the U.S. who had been stricken with the coronavirus that spread from Wuhan, China.



ABC News: WHO considers declaring public health emergency

Following an increasing number of deaths and worldwide spread of a novel coronavirus, the World Health Organization considered declaring a state of emergency on Jan. 22., which would "substantially" affect travel to China for both business and tourist purposes, Schaffner said.



Modern Healthcare: Hospitals advised to prepare for coronavirus patients

"It should offer reassurance to people in the community that we're aware of the events that are unfolding in China and now elsewhere, including the U.S., and that we're bringing that sense of prevention and precaution home," Schaffner said.



Fox Business: Tips to stay healthy while traveling

"There are certainly things that people can do," Schaffner said. "Avoid people who [are] coughing, sneezing. ... If you do become ill, unfortunately, obviously report yourself immediately to a health care provider."



PBS News Hour Poll: Most Americans say coronavirus a real threat

"What we can do is curtail its spread very, very substantially so that we do not have a comparable outbreak in the U.S. as they’ve had in China,” Schaffner said.



NYT: 'Wartime conditions' in Wuhan as China gets tougher on outbreak

"What happens to the people who are sick?” Schaffner asked. “Do they receive care, and at what level? And can the caregivers, in the circumstances of a stadium or school auditorium, provide care effectively — and keep themselves safe?” 



CNN Health: Will heat kill the coronavirus by spring?

"It's a respiratory virus, and we know respiratory viruses are very seasonal, but not exclusively. One would hope that the gradual spring will help this virus recede. We can't be sure of that," Schaffner said, a longtime adviser to the CDC.



Washington Post: Most coronavirus cases are mild, complicating the response

There are key differences in the patients in Hubei and those who have traveled or been diagnosed outside China. It's possibly the criteria for testing is different outside of China.

"Another possibility, said William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and health policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, is that the U.S. patients were a self-selected sample of fairly healthy people — hardy enough, at least, to travel to Wuhan and back. Eleven of the U.S. patients were such travelers, while two others were spouses who came in contact with them after they returned.

Schaffner also noted that in China, where the vast majority of deaths and illnesses from the “covid-19” disease have occurred, air pollution and a higher smoking prevalence may contribute to the severity of the disease."



NYT: Coronavirus Infection Found After Cruise Ship Passengers Disperse

“We anticipated glitches, but I have to tell you I didn’t anticipate one of this magnitude,” said Schaffner, after a ship carrying infected passengers was allowed to disembark in Cambodia.



Cheddar: 7th Health Worker Dies in China amid epidemic

What you need to know as deaths and cases continue to mount worldwide.


LiveScience: Specialized respirators are key to stopping spread of coronavirus to medical staff

"It would appear that N95 respirators, no surprise, protect against health care acquisition of the virus," said Schaffner.



NYT: First community transmission case appears in California

“Physicians are going to want to start testing everybody with a fever and a cough,” Schaffner told the Times. “They’re going to want to do that and the patients are going to want to do that.”



LiveScience: U.S. isn't 'remotely prepared' to test for COVID-19

"There are discussions that many of us have had that we would like the testing criteria to be relaxed more, not made quite so stringent,"  Schaffner told Live Science. "[But] I suspect the criteria for testing will open up once the laboratories become comfortable in doing the test and they know they have a regular supply of the reagents."



Additional resources

CDC: How a coronavirus spreads



Coronavirus FAQ



What to do if you are sick



What to do if you are sick with coronavirus