Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


An interview with Raul Rabadan, author of Understanding Coronavirus

Why is information about the coronavirus/COVID-19 so confusing? Grasp the key facts in this concise, accessible and authoritative book.

A donation from proceeds of the sale of this title will be made to the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.


unedited transcript follows:

Understanding Coronavirus (Updated edition 2021)

Part of Understanding Life

AUTHOR: Raul Rabadan, Columbia University, New York October 2021

Paperback ISBN: 9781009088572

Hardback and eBook also available

Hi my name is Raul Rabadan and I’m a professor in systems biology at the University of Columbia in New York my work is looking at genomes looking at the structure information of different organisms in humans and also in viruses so I’m the author of the book Understanding Coronavirus by Cambridge University Press

Understanding Coronavirus is a book about the knowledge that we have about coronaviruses we have coronaviruses that have been circulating in humans for some time we have Cornaviruses that have created outbreaks like the corona virus in 2002-2003 that created and the source outbreak and we know many things about pandemics we this is not the first pandemic that we have I mean we have
pandemics from flu in 2009 and before in the previous century so we have learned many things and all this knowledge I mean can provide a way of direct and understand what’s going on I mean the
events are accumulating very fast the news are also very confusing sometimes and what I’ve tried to do in this book is just to provide to delay the audience not to the expert but to the lay audience with some of this knowledge in kind of a way that everyone can understand so what is ours and what are different coronaviruses how corner parties are evolving how this is related to flu and other viruses that have created pandemics in the past

I think it’s a normal anxiety I mean this is what is happening with some events that they are moving very fast that they are changing our life our lifestyle our economy and probably they have also political implications so all these things they are mixed and I think is very important to understand what the science have learned before this outbreak and what are we learning here in the current outbreak so in this book what I’ve been trying to do is just plain in a lay language some of the science that now I mean has been done the book is based only on scientific papers that I consider there have some merit and I think fine to explain the different things what we know and before this pandemic and what we know now and the things that we don’t know also I think is important to count the outside it to know exactly what we know and we don’t know so it’s just trying to come the situation and to give the people in general a way of thinking kind of have reference points where we can just start thinking about different aspects about the epidemiology of the disease about different viruses that are around and also about the future I mean is there other viruses that can be doing something similar in the future and how we can deal with the situation now and probably in the future

This coronavirus outbreak that we have right now I mean starting in 2019 now in 2020 has some things that are in common with other corner viruses like the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003 but all the things that they are very different they also share some of the things with some of the pandemics in the past some of the flu pandemics but we live but they are also very different so in the book I explained how these viruses they’re different fouled out and these outbreaks are different and how we can compare and they’re things that are comparable and there are things that are not comparable there are things for example about seasonal flu or pandemic flu that I don’t think they are valid metaphors of how to think about this one they are other aspects of epidemiological aspects that can be very informative so I think it’s important if we are going to do a comparison of the different events that we have in the past I mean this is the only way that we have to understand the present is by looking at the experience in in the past is to understand how much of this information is useful and how much of this information could be confusing

There are several aspects that I think will be surprising I mean the surprise me depends on the knowledge of the of reader and now there’s a lot of information but I think the reader will be surprised that to say that to learn that there are many things that we know that there are many parallels that we can we can see between this outbreak and the outbreak in 2002-2003 and that this previous experience can be very very helpful to conceptualize to understand what is going on so there are many things I mean there are many things about people are asking about how this virus is evolving is this evolution going to to preclude to have an effective vaccine we know many things about these things we know how this virus is evolved we know many things about how these parts is emerged there are many things that we don’t know and I explained in the book how is our current knowledge I mean but there are many things that we know and I think this is very kind of gratifying to to learn the previous experiences and how this can inform the current situation and there are many things about epidemiology I mean people are saying well I mean do these measures of containment and quarantine do the work I mean well I mean we have quarantine since the Middle Ages and we have a lot of experiences not with these particular viruses but with many others and I think this experience is very very helpful I mean this experience is what I determined to take some measures and and we can learn from these experiences well the current prospects for vaccine and treatments they are moving very fast at the moment when we are recording we don’t have a very effective treatment for the disease doctors they are learning how to treat patients with this disease in a practical days but we don’t have treatments at the moment neither therapeutics neither I mean vital therapies or or vaccines the progress is moving very fast and there are many ideas many of these ideas were born from previous experiences I was mentioned there was a very similar virus to this one the one that caused the outbreak of SARS in 2002-2003 and there are many things that we know about these viruses that we learn in the past the previous virus the SARS virus disappeared basically in July of 2003 and we there was a lot of research that stopped or there was not moving a very very fast speed that we have right now so but we learn many things from there and I think many of the therapies that we are trying they are inspired or they are variations of the things that we that we have in the past so there are tons of clinical trials there are clinical trials that are moving forward in vaccines we don’t know what is going to be the future here but I’m very optimistic I think we have a very engaged scientific community

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