Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Published on21 FEB 2020

Infectious disease expert Peter Piot discusses the origination, spread and management of COVID-19, lessons from his prior work discovering and managing the Ebola virus, and steps to take to prepare for future outbreaks.

On the management of COVID-19: “We are confronted with a new virus and people are very concerned about Ebola and it’s very frightening and the mortality can be [high], but you need really close contact. Whereas for this virus, what makes it so frightening is that it is respiratory transmitted…. The world has become far more vulnerable than before. And so, we're seeing an increase in the number of these kinds of emerging viruses and outbreaks. And there's no way we can prevent the beginning of an outbreak because these viruses come from animals and they jump. But what we can do is to prevent that they emerge into a huge epidemic.”

On lessons from previous outbreaks: “We don't invest enough in…what we call public health systems.…The priorities when it comes to health is health care and hospitals and I can understand that. That's where the pressure is, but we are acting as if we would only put together the fire brigade when a house is on fire. You need a fire brigade that's constantly there. You hope they will be without a job for the rest of your life, but you need that and you need fire drills and all that. That's a big lesson.”

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