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National infectious disease expert talks COVID-19 in Duluth

DULUTH, MN (KBJR) -- Dr. Michael Osterholm made a stop in Duluth Friday to discuss the Coronavirus, COVID-19.

"In so many ways we are handling this today as if it was a Minneapolis Blizzard. What we have to do is change that mindset because this is going to be more of a coronavirus winter. An entire season and we're just in the first weeks of it."

Preparing for the long-run with the Coronavirus. That's what the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities infectious disease specialist said about the expected outcome of the pandemic.

Dr. Osterholm is at the forefront of the COVID-19 conversation. Friday he told us what impacts the virus could have long-term.

Deadly strains of Influenza or the flu have been around for centuries.

The flu has become a pandemic more than once and killed millions of people.

It still exists today, but modern health experts are discussing what would happen if a new influenza virus showed up today, in world of 8-billion people

"Unfortunately we now have on our hands, but it's caused by a coronavirus which is acting very much like influenza," said Dr. Osterholm.

The infectious disease expert said the outbreak is bound to have a worse outcome than a bad flu season, which is indicated already.

He said, "problem is this isn't just a couple weeks of illness. And already in this country, we're projecting that the number of deaths from this disease could easily surpass a bad flu season by 20-30 fold."

Osterholm authored 2017 book, Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs. In the book, he details the most pressing infectious disease threats of our day.

He said the Coronavirus is transmitted in two ways. "Through just kind of close contact with someone and breathing their air and those droplets that you cough out land on a surface."

Osterholm said people need to take precautions. "We should not be scaring people out of their wits, we should be scaring people into their wits [...] We have to figure out how are we going to exist? Are we going to close down everything for 6-months?"

The Doctor says as a society, social distancing is important during an outbreak, but communities have to find ways to use their limited resources to help those most vulnerable to the infection.

"It's one where we can't change it, but we can sure help people understand what they can do to get throughout and we can get through it"

Doctor Osterholm said he expects the virus to die down in the coming months but we could still see cases until the fall.

He adds, medical professionals hope to create a vaccine that would eliminate the virus but that's still a way out.

Beret Leone

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