SMA Member Peter Larkins Q&A on Triple M

Mar 25, 2020

Longstanding SMA member Peter Larkins sat down with Ed and Darce on Triple M’s Hot Breakfast show discussing and answering listeners questions regarding the Coronavirus. Read some of the key points below.
What should we be doing?

Well we have to take information from the infectious disease specialists at the federal and state health department. Obviously, it impacts all medical practices and all people. We just have to take it seriously because it’s an invisible threat at this time. This is a virus that’s more contagious than we know about. We’ve all had colds and the flu during the flu season, and we know that that’s an issue that makes people sick and puts them off work. We’ve just got to be serious about it.

Is there a lung capacity issue for people who have smoked heavily?

Yes. Well if you have respiratory compromise of any sort, remembering that this is a respiratory virus, it may start in the sinuses and the throat but it can get into the lungs. So, when we talk about people dying we talk about lung disease and other organ failure. Overseas, the deaths have been in elderly people who have had poor medical care or poor access to medical care in countries like China and Iran and in people who have had compromised resistance systems. In healthy younger people who get a bad cold or flu, they will be treated at home and will recover, but we think a huge percentage of the population are at risk of getting exposed to it and therefore you need to be isolated if you get it.

China are reporting that they are coming out of it. They’re now sending expertise to Italy and supplies because they say ‘you’re the next one after us’. We’ve just heard in America that they’re the next one after Italy and that Australia is the next one after the US.

Well America is the big threat because, well without being too disrespectful to their system they didn’t take it all that seriously a few weeks ago. The population is huge, and the amount of testing being done wasn’t reflecting the number of people. So, I think there will be thousands of cases in the US in the next two or three weeks and they’ll recover – we’re not talking about deaths we’re talking about cases. But at the moment, the isolation is unprecedented.

Why the magic 500 number that the Prime Minister’s put out? What do you make of that?

I think that was a random number that had to be picked. It could’ve been 450 or it could’ve been 700. I don’t think there’s any scientific logic to that. The point that they were saying is that they don’t want huge gatherings. If you’ve got one hundred people together and one person has the virus – if you’re shaking hands and socialising you’re going to transmit it. The logic of that is they were trying to set a number that didn’t impact everything around the Nation.

Are we heading to social isolation? Should we be preparing for our kids being at home and basically locking down Victoria in the depths of winter in June/July?

Well yes the peak is probably going to be May which means it will still be around then. So, you’re right, the five hundred, to four hundred to hundred, there’s no logic in that. If someone’s got it, they’ll pass it around. The total isolation which everyone’s learning on the go you understand that, but if you said ‘should there be no gatherings at all’, clearly that’s the only way not to spread it.

Remember there are hygiene precautions in place that everyone should be absolutely stringent about. Washing your hands, not coughing into your hand and shaking it with somebody; just doing all the things we normally do to prevent cold and flu in a sporting club or footy club at the present time. I would make sure that people who had a viral infection did not go to school which is what you do anyway. We realise if we putt really stringent things in place at the school’s, kindergartens and workplaces I would just let life go on in that way. If you did get sick you would just isolate yourself and as Ed said, it might just be the cold or flu. But we don’t know what’s out there. It is invisible at the present time and we know that the spread is increasing at the present time as we sit here on March 14th, so we have to be accepting that we have to be more careful than usual.

If you get the virus and let it run its course for 14 days can you then re-catch it or are you immune?

14 days is the time frame for isolation if you’ve been exposed to someone. If you get the virus it’s not necessarily going to take 14 days to recover. It could be seven or eight days or it could be three weeks. It depends on your own resistance. You will build up resistance – Antibodies – to the virus and therefore it’s like other infections that you’ve had like chicken pox or the measles. If you’ve been exposed and you have good resistance you shouldn’t get it a second time around because your body will have developed a good defense, we think.

Should we be wearing a mask?

If you’re going to be in an environment where you are mixing with other people, you probably should. If you have a cough or cold you should have a mask on so you’re not coughing your own germs out into the air.

Should we be stocking up? How bad is it going to get?

I guess you have to look at the worse case scenario. The isolation for 14 days if you were given that, you have to be able to have enough perishable and non-perishable food to stay indoors for that time. You can get things delivered. The panic was unnecessary a few weeks ago. I think we do need to have some essentials at home though.

Are we better being exposed to it in summer than winter?

We probably are just because you’re more likely to have a coexisting virus in winter. We know that there are more medical viruses in winter and your ability to recover is based on your resistance. It’s the people who are teenagers, younger kids and the healthy who will recover quicker. It’s one of those things that we would prefer not to get it but if you do, make sure you do the precautions on getting over it.

Are we still 12 months off a vaccination?

The vaccination in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratory which is world leading in that area is working 24 hours a day at the moment to do it. These processes take a long time because they have to be safe and they’ve got to be effective. All the flu vaccinations that we are having in 2020 were developed a year ago.

What should you have in your medical kit at home?

Things for fever and things for pain. Soluble Aspirin is good as an antipyretic and anti-fever tablet. If you get a sore throat you can gargle with it because its anti-inflammatory. Aspirin is one of the wonder drugs of the world. Aspirin is a great drug for fever and for pain. It actually reduces a sore throat as well.


For the full interview click here.