‘Stuff You Should Know’ Tackles COVID-19

Stuff You Should Know hosts Chuck and Josh use this episode to take a deep dive into the reason for the quaran-season: Coronavirus. They discuss how it spreads, how it interacts with your cells, why social distancing and quarantining measures work, what vaccines and treatments are being explored, and much more. Though we’re still learning a lot about this virus, health experts are fairly certain that it jumped from animal to human through pangolins, an animal that’s considered a delicacy in China; they've closed 20,000 wildlife farms to curb the pangolin trade in response, and Nigeria is under pressure to shut theirs down as well. Pangolins are a mammal, by the way, but covered in scales; “they look like a dragon had sex with an anteater,” Chuck describes.

We’re in the “community spread” phase of the pandemic, which is the hardest to deal with because it means people get infected who haven’t had any contact with a sick person. And thanks to the virus’s ability to live in the body for so long without showing any symptoms, it’s “much more difficult to contain.” They go over what the symptoms feel like, but are quick to point out that a majority of people who get COVID-19 do recover from it because they get a mild case. Our numbers of deaths might be inflated because we haven’t done enough testing to know how many cases we actually have. South Korea did abundant testing and managed to contain the virus, and they found that the death rate was something like 0.7% – still higher than the seasonal flu at 0.1%, but not nearly as high as the graphs seem to show now.

The other good news is that there are no documented cases, as of yet, of anyone getting the virus from a fomite, or infected surface. Though the virus can live on various surfaces for a long time, which is why such stringent sanitation and hand-washing measures are necessary, it seems to be mostly spread when someone sneezes or coughs. This doesn’t mean you should start “licking grocery cart handles, like you usually do,” Chuck jokes; it’s important to still sanitize your doorknobs, credit cards, and other surfaces, just in case. They also share news about studies into existing medicines that could be used to treat COVID-19 as well as a dedicated vaccine, which is the ultimate goal: we want a “bangin’, robust vaccine,” Josh says, “lots of gold chains and swagger.” 

They also get into the fascinating science of how the virus attaches to our cells, give us a reality check about the various dangers to our medical supply chain and existing healthcare infrastructure, and advise us to just stay home, even if we aren’t feeling sick: To stop your life for two weeks to self-quarantine so you can be sure not to spread this around is “an enormous gift to give to people,” Josh points out. Learn more about how coronavirus works on this episode of Stuff You Should Know

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