News at Buckley

Q&A with Alum and Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Tyler Evans

Dr. Tyler Evans MD, MS, MPH, DTM&H, Buckley class of ’95, is an infectious disease/tropical medicine specialist and currently the Chief Medical Officer for the County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency, an associate professor at the University of Southern California (USC), founder of the NYC refugee and asylee health coalition, and has previously led a number of national organizations including the AIDS HealthCare Foundation.
His clinical focus in the U.S. is on vulnerable populations, including the homeless/housing insecure, substance users, LGBTQ+, and migrants (including refugees/asylees). He is currently on the board of Global Outreach Doctors, and lead a recent operation to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where he is still involved with a program focusing on Ebola management as well as mental health services for women affected by sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). 

Dr. Evans recently reconnected with the Buckley community at an alumni event in Northern California and in a phone call about the emergence of the Coronavirus.

How much of the concern around the Coronavirus has been sensationalized by the media?
Much of it. There is a concern, as there is with any communicable disease. Microbes are universal. We must live in a commensal relationship. The Coronavirus is not a newly discovered microbe. It is commonly associated with a number of other well-known epidemics (eg SARS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS), including the common cold. There are always deviations and genetic reconstitutions of a virus; however this one is a little bit more infectious and the symptoms are slightly more severe. The radius from those that may be infected is three feet. 

Who is dying from it?
The majority of people who have passed away from this virus are immune-compromised - typically over age 65. over the age of 65. The current number (>900, nearly all in China) has surpassed that of SARS (2002), but the death rate was higher in 2002. This predominant adverse effect on immunocompromised adults is common with communicable diseases (eg west Nile virus). 

Is there an antidote or something you can take for it?
The most important defense is prevention, control, precaution. Hand hygiene is critical. Antibiotics won’t work because it’s a virus, not a bacterial infection. Coronavirus has a two week incubation period and can be spread through respiratory droplets, not through the air, so it’s not as infectious as, for example, a quintessential airborne disease (eg TB). The distance droplets can travel is significantly less (eg 3 feet). The most important precaution  is hand hygiene 

What measures are we taking now to prevent the spread of this virus?
The U.S., U.K., and Australia are now monitoring anyone who’s been to China within the past two weeks. A rapid test is now available, but is not ultra specific for this strain. The surgical masks you see people wearing are also minimally effective. The droplets can penetrate and you’ll likely  get sick anyway. Again, The most important precaution you can take is hand hygiene. Washing hands is SUPER important.

What is the global impact of a virus like this?
Anything from a highly concentrated urban area like China is going to spread faster and have a higher impact. Case in point, with ebola in West Africa, for example, it burns out quickly because there is less travel from the area. This coronavirus started with non-human species, in wild animals that were being sold for consumption in Wuhan as street food. Now it’s in several countries across the globe. It’s a reminder of how connected we all are. We need to be more concerned about malaria, HIV/AIDS, TB, and other neglected tropical diseases that predominantly impact the most vulnerable throughout the world. 
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