Richard Preston, Author Of The Book “Hot Zone,” That Was Later Made Into A Hollywood Movie ‘Outbreak,’ Was Interviewed On CNBC’s Squawk Box On His Thoughts On The Coronavirus Pandemic
Richard Preston, a writer for The New Yorker, and best-selling author of numerous books on infectious diseases, bioterrorism, and the blockbuster best-seller, “The Hot Zone,” and was later made into a Hollywood movie ‘Outbreak,’ was interviewed on CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning/April 3, on his thoughts on the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Preston said “the coronavirus pandemic was not a suprise and has really be telegraphed for twenty five years, as virologists have been predicting that a new pandemic was only a matter of time; and, it would most likely occur due to a new coronavirus.” When asked what is so significant about a coronavirus and why it is so deadly to humans, Mr. Preston said “it is because nature is full of viruses, everything on the planet that lives, from bacteria to blue whales — gets infected with their own kinds of viruses. Coronaviruses live in many kinds of animals in nature. As an example he said, “bats in China and Central Asia — which we think this current coronavirus came from — are believed to harbor 5,000 different coronaviruses. For the most part, these viruses give the bats a runny nose — essentially a bat cold. But, viruses have a tendency to jump species. They find a new host. And right now on the planet, there are 7 and one-half billion people. We represent an enormous new, unexplored host for these viruses. And. this coronavirus pandemic is the third major outbreak of a coronavirus to occur in humans. There will certainly be more. Some pundits have said that this current outbreak is a ‘once in one hundred year event.’ It is absolutely not, Mr. Preston warned. Rather, it is part of a pattern of emerging viruses. Viruses coming out of the world’s ecosystems and finding their way into the human species. And, then as we now see, they can do incredible damage. There will be more coronavirus outbreaks in the future, and some will morph into a pandemic. We do not know when or what it will be — maybe another coronavirus, maybe something else. But, what we do know, or what we can see is that the human species, packed together in these enormous supercities, cities with populations of 20 million or more — greater New York being an example of that, with a population of about 20 million — is that you get a petri dish and breeding ground for a huge outbreak.”
Mr. Preston said he “thinks the major thing we’re taking away from this pandemic is that pandemic and public health is now a matter of national security. A worst-case scenario than coronavirus is certainly possible, where the virus is much more lethal/fatal. There is evidence that viruses in the short-term, can really be extremely deadly and rapidly spread — and the host population could be cut down by a large amount. We are not without defenses he added. One of the most important defenses we have as humans is altruism, kindness, and an ability to work with teams and set differences aside. We’re seeing that now with fundamentally heroic work of medical care workers across the U.S. — they are doing an incredible and an amazing job of just carrying on in the face of danger and great difficulty.
Any crisis also brings opportunities. We have an opportunity here, to get focused on the real situartion of the human species on the planet — with regard to these viruses. They are clearly a threat; but, we can do things to deal with it. One thing is going to be essential. Nations around the world, starting with the U.S., have to develop a series of platforms for rapidly developing vaccines and new kinds of anti-viral drugs — which can be done, it is very feasible, he said. In addition to that, we have to develop surge manufacturing capability. We’re going to have a coronavirus vaccine sometime in the next 12-18 months — butl the real question is — can we make enough of it to make a difference. And, that is where a surge manufacturing capability comes into play.
When asked if these animal ‘wet-markets’ like those in China need to be looked [shutdown], at Mr. Preston said absolutely yes. And, the people that go to these wet-markets to buy these items — are putting themselves in great danger.
As Mr. Preston has also said, “All viruses have a biological desire to make itself immortal.”