Dr Peter Marghella, one of the world’s foremost authorities on pandemics appeared on the KGVO Talk Back Program on Tuesday at the invitation of the Montana World Affairs Council to speak about the current coronavirus scare.

Dr. Marghella outlined the type of coronavirus that has spread outside China to several countries, sparking fears of a possible pandemic.

“It’s a novel emerging type of coronavirus that we’ve never seen before,” said Dr. Marghella. “If you consider the rapidity of the spread since the first cases were isolated in December, then this is moving very fast and that raises the fear meter in the public health and healthcare community by that simple definition. It’s moving quickly.”

Dr. Marghella explained how the virus is primarily passed from person to person.

“This is spread by human to human transmission by respiratory particulate matter, and it usually occurs between three and six feet of an infected person who coughs, sneezes or you touch,” he said. “There is absolutely no worry about touching anything physical or non human and having any risk of getting the disease.

Dr. Marghella spent a great deal of time discussing what he terms ‘the seven pillars of catastrophic casualty management’. They are managing surge capacity; that is not enough hospital beds or medical facilities to handle the impact of a true pandemic. The second is patient moving and transportation. The third pillar is medical logistics and supply. The fourth is mass fatality management, in other words how to properly dispose of bodies from a true pandemic. The fifth pillar is ‘psycho-social support’ to affected populations, with the sixth being managing special needs populations, and number seven is ‘managing the message’, that is public health preparedness.

Dr. Marghella said one of the major points of his research is getting the accurate information about any particular pandemic out to the public, to help prevent panic in the population.

“I once wrote an article that ended with ‘I wish we had a vaccine against misinformation’,” he said. “Our biggest enemy right now is the world wide web because anybody could put stuff out there and people are getting their information from non-proven sources,” he said. “You have to establish proven sources where the public can go to get the right answers. There’s a tripartite partnership between the media, the state and county at the most local level emergency management officials and state and county healthcare leadership in the hospitals so that they’re all talking from the same sheet of music and not enhancing the cacophony at a time when there’s going to be panic and disorder in the first place.”

Dr. Marghella is the medical response adviser to the President of the United States aboard the National Operations Center, better known as ‘Nightwatch’.