On December 30, 2019, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital in the Hubei province of China messaged his fellow physicians, alerting them to the appearance of a concerning cluster of pneumonia cases. Thirty-nine days later, after becoming infected with the very virus he tried to warn his colleagues about, Dr. Li Wenliang was dead at thirty-three. By that time, the disease had already spread to dozens of countries.
Before the SARS outbreak in 2002, only two coronaviruses were known to cause disease in humans, but neither caused much more than the common cold. The SARS coronavirus, however, went on to kill about one in ten people it infected. A 10 percent mortality rate. A decade later, in 2012, MERS, another deadly coronavirus, emerged. Like SARS, MERS spread to infect thousands of people across dozens of countries, but that time, one in three died. More than a 30 percent mortality rate. Today, we’re fighting to protect ourselves from—and to defeat—the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Where are these emerging infectious diseases emerging from?
All human viral infections are believed to originate in animals. Many of the first cases of the SARS coronavirus, caused by SARS-CoV, were found in the same kind of place most of the first cases of our current pandemic of the COVID-19 coronavirus, caused by SARS-CoV-2, have been found: live animal “wet” markets in China.
To understand COVID-19 and other deadly viral outbreaks, we have to understand their history and evolution if we’ll ever have a chance at preventing future pandemics. We also have to look back and take lessons from the past. How did we successfully beat back SARS? Why is it more difficult with COVID-19? What do we have to do to slow the pandemic today before we even have a hope at a vaccine?
I cover all of that—from origin stories of past killer pandemics to what we should be doing today to stay safe—and then dive into the clinical side of COVID-19 and discuss what the disease looks like and the best way to treat it. Our videos on COVID-19 are now available to watch here.
Update on the vaccines: The approved COVID-19 vaccines appear to be both safe and effective. Dr. Greger is excited that his mom has an appointment to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and he is looking forward to his turn! Here is a good explanation of how these vaccines work: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mrna.html.
Pandemics: History & Prevention
How to treat the cause by preventing the emergence of pandemic viruses in the first place (a video I recorded more than a decade ago when I was Public Health Director at the HSUS in Washington DC)
Featured Videos and Appearances
Dr. Greger REACTS To COVID-19 Chaos: Plant Based News
DIY Hand Sanitizer
Click to view and download a copy of our DIY hand sanitizer recipe. Available in imperial and metric versions.