Interview: Dr. Anthony Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Md. …May 30, 2020 (Keystone / DS)

Here are excerpts from a conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci.

On what U.S. can do for the next pandemic:

We try to do everything we can, and sometimes they will surprise us. But even though we don’t have a new virus that will cause a pandemic, there may still be a new flu that emerges that turns up, that can take a different form in a different animal. For example, bird flu already got a foothold in birds in China, but it also occurred in the United States and this is what is sparking a lot of concern today. They have just released five new vaccines designed to develop resistance to avian flu. If this mutated into a flu that could pose a real health threat to people, we would want to be prepared for that. And we are doing that. The recommendations and guidelines that are out are designed to help people… in this case, improve their immunity to avian flu in the United States so that the pandemic doesn’t come.

On whether omicron is already in the U.S.

No. We don’t know for sure. What’s happened is, there’s a monkey in Hong Kong that was infected with this wild monkey flu virus and gave us our first clue. It’s so devastating that if we have more of it we should be concerned. And today we have grown the virus and we have vaccine for it, but this flu is unpredictable, it has caused its own pandemics and we’re not sure if it’s going to start one. We wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up. It will go all over the world because it’s a small virus that can jump easily from animal to animal. I think it’s going to go all over.

On the duck elk pneumonia case that has infected 175 in the U.S. and Canada:

The virus, the variant of the virus that’s causing the epidemic that we’ve been seeing lately has some similarities with influenza viruses that we’ve seen in people in the past… and flu is dangerous and it can be deadly. The people who have the infection, they’re not dying, but the symptoms – lethargy, loss of appetite, jaundice – and especially the infection with avian influenza is very serious. The reason we’re worried is because it could even kill a child. If the infection occurs early, when someone is not severely ill, the body can fight off this virus… the baby that died in Washington, the doctors saved it… the reason we’re worried is because we really don’t know how to prevent children who are coming down with the flu from turning into respiratory cases that might cause complications. We don’t know the virus is going to mutate and present differently. We don’t know if some kind of antibiotic will work in a newborn. So we really don’t know if we’re going to have a child this year that becomes very ill and we can’t save it.

On whether it was predictable that salmonella of mice in chicken eggs would create egg-borne human botulism:

The thing that’s unique about salmonella… is it’s not transmitted person to person. It’s transmitted to animals and it’s transmitted to people. It is a spreader of this form of botulism, but a very small rate of humans getting infected is caused by the salmonella bacteria.

On why a short trip from Dubai to Dubai would eventually infect a limited number of people:

The way this pathogen got out of our country, how it got to that area in the first place, was because there are so many transmitters here for this bacterium. People, clothes, hair, things that you touch with your bare hands, who was exposed to the biosynthetic pathway, who was exposed to that it happens that when you go from a dry city to a humid city where there’s an aquifer under that city that gets very salty, it will make bacteria more aggressive. It will allow them to attach themselves to the hen and kill it.

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