'We can control the outbreak': Duke infectious disease doctor says COVID-19 situation will get worse before it gets better

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Thursday, March 19, 2020
Duke infectious disease doctor weighs in on coronavirus
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Christopher Woods has been studying emerging infections for his entire career, but hasn't seen anything quite like this.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Duke University professor of medicine and global health has been studying emerging infections for his entire career but has yet to see anything capture the attention of society quite like this.

Over the course of nearly 30 years, Dr. Christopher Woods has witnessed outbreaks like HIV, Zika, Ebola and West Nile, but has never seen an outbreak, like the novel coronavirus, capture the attention of society like the previous illnesses.

"This is unprecedented in our lifetime," said Dr. Woods. "We have to work together: those of us in the medical community, those in the public health community and those of us in the media and those of at home."

Dr. Woods talked at length about the variety of pandemics he's studied throughout his career in an interview with ABC11.

"When we think of respiratory disease outbreaks, we go back to the 1918 influenza pandemic," he said. "That is what everyone thinks of. It's hard however to take something that's a century old and put it into modern perspectives."

We also asked him about how this emerging crisis compares to the swine flu pandemic of 2009.

"With this particular coronavirus, we don't have the drugs," Dr. Woods said. "We also had influenza vaccines-- not specific to that virus but we had a system in place to generate one quickly. Both these viruses arise from animals, they spread and they appear to be very transmissible. It appears that this coronavirus has a higher case fatality rate so it's killing more people."

Dr. Woods describes his level of concern as 'fluid' and continues to monitor it for himself. He's hopeful once more people get tested, the mortality rate will go down.

"I remain confident we can control the outbreak. We need to work together and we can get through this circumstance. I really believe we can achieve that flattening which will give our scientists time to develop those countermeasures."

Dr. Woods does believe people in North Carolina are a bit better off because it's less dense in comparison to cities San Francisco or New York.

  • WATCH: Full-length interview with Dr. Christopher Woods