Doctor who helped defeat smallpox slams Trump's lies over coronavirus

Doctor who helped defeat smallpox brands the coronavirus the ‘most dangerous pandemic in our lifetime’ and slams Trump’s ‘lies’ for misleading the public about its danger

  • Larry Brilliant, 75, has warned of a pandemic from a new virus in which 165 million could die for the past 15 years 
  • He believes the coronavirus presents the pandemic he warned of
  • Brilliant claims we’re seeing only a seventh the full impact of the outbreak so far
  • And says ‘if you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention’
  • He warned that some people are in danger because of President Trump’s ‘lies’
  • Trump’s early claim that the virus was a ‘Democratic hoax’ may prevent people from thinking they need to self-isolate or be tested 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

A U.S. doctor who has fought against outbreaks of smallpox, the flu, polio and blindness has branded the coronavirus outbreak as ‘the most dangerous pandemic of our time’, adding that if ‘you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention’ as cases in the United States soar past 16,000. 

Larry Brilliant, 75, is a top epidemiologist who helped the World Health Organization in eradicating smallpox and worked as a consultant on the movie ‘Contagion’, which was widely praised for its realistic portrayal of the rapid global spread of a virus.  

For the past 15 years he has warned of the dangers of a new virus emerging which could see as many as 165 million people die and he is now taking a hit of the actions of President Donald Trump for failing to do more early on to lessen the impact in the U.S.. 

Brilliant branded Trump’s claim that the coronavirus was a Democratic hoax as ‘the most irresponsible act of an elected official that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime’. 

Top epidemiologist Larry Brilliant has been warning of a pandemic that could kill 165 million

Brilliant has accused President Donald Trump of leaving the public in danger with his ‘lies’

The doctor first spoke publicly in 2006 of his fear of a new outbreak from a previously unheard of virus when he delivered a Ted Talk named ‘Help stop the next pandemic’. 

In the talk he warned how ‘a billion people would get sick’ as he spoke of his work in the fight against smallpox and warned that early detection and early response are vital when dealing with an outbreak.

‘As many as 165 million people would die. There would be a global recession and depression, and the cost to our economy of $1 to $3 trillion would be far worse for everyone than merely 100 million people dying, because so many more people would lose their jobs and their health care benefits, that the consequences are almost unthinkable,’ Brilliant warned, 

Now in semi-quarantine in his home in California, where the whole state has been placed under a shelter-in-place order, Brilliant now believes that the pandemic he warned of has finally hit in the form of the novel coronavirus, a new virus for which there is yet no vaccine or cure and for which humans have not yet developed an immunity. 

Larry Brilliant worked with the World Health Organization to eradicate small pox

Speaking to Wired, Brilliant was highly critical of President Trump’s actions in recent years which meant that the United Sates was less prepared for a response than it could have been. 

He also slammed his words in the first weeks of the crisis in which Trump downplayed the virus as a ‘Democratic hoax’ claiming that there are American people in danger now because they still believe this to be true. 

‘Trump pushed out the admiral on the National Security Council, who was the only person at that level who’s responsible for pandemic defense,’ Brilliant said. 

‘With him went his entire downline of employees and staff and relationships. And then Trump removed the [early warning] funding for countries around the world.’

He praised the work now ongoing to keep people in quarantine but claimed that this should have started weeks before when the virus could have been cut off or at least the spread delayed for several few months while more work was carried out on developing a vaccine. 

‘Yes, this is very good advice. But did we get good advice from the president of the United States for the first 12 weeks?’ he asked.

‘No. All we got were lies. Saying it’s fake, by saying this is a Democratic hoax. There are still people today who believe that, to their detriment. 

‘Speaking as a public health person, this is the most irresponsible act of an elected official that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime.’

President Donald Trump reacts angrily to a question asking what he would say to Americans who are scared during his administration’s daily coronavirus task force briefing Thursday. A U.S. doctor claims Trump has spread ‘lies’ to the American people about the outbreak

He also warned that self-isolation and flattening the curve of the infection rate for a few months will only keep the world safe for so long, postponing the number of cases but not decreasing them. 

Yet Brilliant does have hope that a vaccine will be found, saying he ‘is not scared’ as there is no evidence so far to suggest that one cannot be found for the novel coronavirus or that humans will not eventually develop some kind of immunity to it. 

‘Because of the intense interest in getting [Covid-19] conquered, we will put the scientific clout and money and resources behind finding antivirals that have prophylactic or preventive characteristics that can be used in addition to [vaccines],’ he said. 

Before we can leave out homes again, much more testing will need to be done, he said, adding that we need something that looks like a home pregnancy test that can safely be done at home to identify cases.    

This will help show the true extent of the outbreak, of which he believes we are only currently seeing one seventh. 

‘The world is not going to begin to look normal until three things have happened,’ Brillant advises. 

‘One, we figure out whether the distribution of this virus looks like an iceberg, which is one-seventh above the water, or a pyramid, where we see everything. If we’re only seeing right now one-seventh of the actual disease because we’re not testing enough, and we’re just blind to it, then we’re in a world of hurt. 

‘Two, we have a treatment that works, a vaccine or antiviral. 

‘And three, maybe most important, we begin to see large numbers of people—in particular nurses, home health care providers, doctors, policemen, firemen, and teachers who have had the disease—are immune, and we have tested them to know that they are not infectious any longer. 

‘And we have a system that identifies them, either a concert wristband or a card with their photograph and some kind of a stamp on it. 

‘Then we can be comfortable sending our children back to school, because we know the teacher is not infectious.’

While he may never have before seen a pandemic of this kind, Brilliant also commends the tremendous acts of kindness he has witnessed, saying ‘I’ve never seen the kind of volunteerism I’m seeing. 

‘I don’t want to pretend that this is an exercise worth going through in order to get to that state. This is a really unprecedented and difficult time that will test us,’ he claimed. 

‘When we do get through it, maybe like the Second World War, it will cause us to reexamine what has caused the fractional division we have in this country.

‘The virus is an equal opportunity infector. 

‘And it’s probably the way we would be better if we saw ourselves that way, which is much more alike than different.’ 

The increase in coronavirus cases in the U.S. since the first was discovered on January 21

As of Thursday afternoon there were over 16,000 coronavirus cases in the United States and more than 200 deaths. 

On Thursday, 4,940 new cases were reported across the U.S., according to a analysis of publicly available health data. That is the second highest number of new cases that has been reported in one day anywhere in the world to date. Italy reported 5,322 new cases yesterday.

China’s reported number of daily new cases peaked at 3,892 new cases on February 5, after which the rate of spread appeared to decline. By Thursday, China reported no new locally transmitted cases for the second day in a row, although several dozen new cases were tracked from people entering the country from abroad.

After the worst of the outbreak in China was over, Beijing changed the way it classified coronavirus cases and announced an additional 19,000 diagnoses from the preceding month. It means the real number of new cases per day in China may have been much higher than its peak of 3,892.

However, the sharp increase in new cases in the U.S. is even more worrying relative to population. With a population of 1.4 billion, China has roughly four times the 330 million population of America.

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