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Officials Around The World Encourage Coronavirus Precautions


We're getting two views of the worsening coronavirus this morning. In a moment, we'll talk to a doctor in Wuhan, China, the city at the heart of the outbreak. But first, to Hong Kong, where NPR's Rebecca Hersher has been reporting on the uncertainty around this virus. It is not clear, for example, how it spreads. And Becky joins us from Hong Kong.

Hi, Becky.


GREENE: So it sounds like health officials in places like where you are - I mean, they have to worry about containing this, obviously, but also containing the fear because there's so many questions still.

HERSHER: Exactly. And there are only about 40 cases here right now, so that's pretty good. But because it's not totally clear how it spreads, new cases get a ton of attention. They make people really scared.

Like, there are these two people who live here. They live on different floors of the same apartment building. They both got the virus. It's all over the papers. There's so much speculation about how that happened. And we don't know how it happened - could've been something really simple, like a poorly timed sneeze. But people are wondering, like, was it the ventilation in the building? Was it the plumbing? It's just - it's really indicative of how worried people are.

GREENE: I mean, so there are theories about how it spread. Any sense for which theory might be correct and which might not be?

HERSHER: You know, there is not. The good thing to know is that there's no evidence that the virus did spread, for example, through a ventilation system or through the plumbing. One of the top epidemiologists here said, don't panic. But it's difficult to track how the outbreak is evolving over time. There are just a lot of questions still about, if you get it, how long it takes to get better; how long it takes if you end up dying. And that information is really important if you want to fully understand the outbreak.

GREENE: All right. NPR Science reporter Rebecca Hersher for us this morning in Hong Kong.

Becky, thanks.

HERSHER: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.
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