The Drive with Peter Attia — Peter Hotez

On: COVID-19

Episode: 97

Date: March 2020

Background: Scientist, pediatrician, and advocate in the fields of global health, vaccinology, and neglected tropical disease control.

Key Subjects:

  • COVID-19.
    • One of three 21st century coronavirus pandemics:
      • SARS (2003), MERS (2012), COVID-19 (now).
    • SARS-CoV2 is the virus; COVID-19 is the disease which that virus spreads.
  • “Perfect Storm” impact of COVID-19:
    • High in fatality and spreads fast.
      • SARS & MERS were higher in fatality, but didn’t spread as much.
    • Many get the virus but don’t get sick –> keep walking around and spreading the virus -> reaches more vulnerable groups.
      • Elderly (>70 years old).
      • Underlying conditions (heart disease, diabetes, hypertension).
    • Healthcare system overloaded.
      • Concentrated,high inflow into a system that doesn’t have a lot of spare capacity to begin with.
      • Healthcare workers and first responders are among the infected, further reducing capacity.
        • Regardless of age of healthcare workers.
        • Some evidence that they contract more severe versions of the virus.
        • 15% of healthcare workers infected in Wuhan became ill.
  • US may have missed the boat on early intervention (testing).
    • Need to identify communities with significant levels of transmission and take action prior to cases ramping up.
  • Convalescent plasma coronavirus therapy being tested as low-cost stop-gap solution.
    • Taking antibodies from individuals that have been infected and have since recovered.
  • Vaccine development time-line much longer.
    • Trials need to clear very high approval thresholds given that you are looking to immunize healthy individuals.
    • Hotez team has developed potential vaccine but has no funding for clinical trials.


  • The podcast mentions the potential impact of weather conditions on transmission of the virus.
    • In other words, could warmer weather slow down transmission?
  • Some studies on the impact of weather condition on the transmission of SARS in Hong Kong in 2003 (here and here) seem to indicate that:
    • the ideal temperature range for transmission was 16-28 degrees Celsius. 
    • during days with lower temperatures the risk of transmission may have been higher.
  • The SARS outbreak in Hong Kong was fairly concentrated in time.
    • Start to finish was a little over three months.
    • While the weather conditions varied, temperature on average was mostly within the range indicated above. 
  • The graphs below are based on Hong Kong government data that I kept track of at the time (all information is for Hong Kong region only).
    • The number of daily active cases (defined as: existing cases plus new cases less discharged cases less fatalities):

Cases Landscape

    • The number of new cases and daily mean temperature (degrees in Celsius):

New Cases Landscape

Leave a Reply