People are being whipped into an “unnecessary panic” and the world’s leaders need to calm their citizens amid the coronavirus pandemic, a top Israeli virologist said.
“I’ve been in this business for 30 years,” Professor Jihad Bishara said in an Israel Channel 12 interview. “I’ve been through MERS, SARS, Ebola, the first Gulf war and the second, and I don’t recall anything like this.”
The world’s leaders need to “first and foremost calm people down,” Bishara said.
Bishara, the director of the Infectious Disease Unit at Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Hospital, said that most people who are infected will recover without even knowing they were sick, the at-risk groups are now known, and the global panic is “unnecessary and exaggerated.”
“People are thinking that there’s a kind of virus, it’s in the air, it’s going to attack every one of us, and whoever is attacked is going to die,” Bishara said.
“That’s not the way it is at all. It’s not in the air. Not everyone [who is infected] dies; most of them will get better and won’t even know they were sick, or will have a bit of mucus.”
But in Israel and around the world, “everybody is whipping everybody else up into panic — the leaders, via the media, and the wider public — who then in turn start to stress out the leaders. We’ve entered some kind of vicious cycle,” Bishara said.
Bishara urged the public to internalize that “we’re talking about a virus that is not airborne. Infection is via droplet transmission… Only if you are close to someone who has the virus, and you get the saliva when he sneezes or coughs, can you get ill. And if you don’t then maintain personal hygiene,” primarily by washing hands.
He said the virus did not appear to be “too intelligent” — unlike flu, “which is very intelligent, it changes, adapts, and it infects people via their airway passages.”