Voice of Reason: Leading Indian-American expert on Infectious Diseases speaks to Coronavirus fears

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Dr. Amesh Adalja, infectious disease expert. (Photo: Twitter)

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an Indian-American expert on infectious diseases, has been in the national spotlight with his take on the coronavirus, being featured in major newspapers and television news coverage, from the New York Times to Fox News to Sirius XM radio.

Responding to Desi Talk requests for an exclusive interview, Dr. Adalja could not spare time because of the many requests he was responding to.

According to his profile available on the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center For Health Security, Dr. Adalja was an external advisor to the New York City Health and Hospital Emergency Management Highly Infectious Disease training program, as well as on a FEMA working group on nuclear disaster recovery.

He has served on U.S. government panels on developing guidelines for the treatment of plague, botulism, and anthrax in mass casualty settings and the system of care for infectious disease emergencies.

Speaking on March 5, 2020, on an Australian news network, Dr. Adalja said, “The majority of [coronavirus] cases are going to be very mild, and many will be indistinguishable from the common cold, which makes it much harder to actually diagnose.”

Before that, on Feb. 27, Dr. Adalja gave a ‘Coronavirus Thought Ledture” at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon, according to a Facebook posting, And on MSNBC March 3, he cautioned that the vaccine for this epidemic would not be available for at least 12 to 18 months.

Adalja, who is from Butler, Pennsylvania, where he actively practices infectious disease, critical care, and emergency medicine in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, has emphasized ‘social distancing’ as a better method of controlling COVID-19 spread, over Italy’s total embargo on people’s movements. “I think this will be the wrong lesson for the world,” said Dr. Adalja on Twitter commenting on Italy’s measures.

For the tri-state area where people are disturbed and fearful of the somewhat sudden rise in numbers of positive Coronavirus cases, Dr. Adalja’s voice of reason may be soothing.

He has emphasized making well-thought-out decisions rather than knee-jerk reactions. He has criticized some East Coast universities for quarantining students that have returned to school from states in the U.S. where there are declared emergencies, saying “That is not justified.”

And when it came to passengers on a cruise ship that docked in Oakland, California with some passengers testing positive for COVID-19, Dr. Adalja tweeted, “It was the right decision to allow the disembarkation; I don’t believe that we should be quarantining passengers though, self-monitoring is what is needed.”

On March 9, 2020, Dr. Adalja opined, “Social Distancing measures (ie temporary shutdowns), NOT lockdowns, that respect individual rights will be a tool that may be appropriate to use in certain contexts based on local transmission dynamics.”

As a Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, Dr. Adalja’s work is focused on emerging infectious disease, pandemic preparedness, and biosecurity, according to his profile on the JHU website.

He is currently a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s (IDSA) Precision Medicine working group and is one of their media spokespersons; he previously served on their public health and diagnostics committees.

A member of the American College of Emergency Physicians Pennsylvania Chapter’s EMS & Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness Committee, Dr. Adalja is also with the Allegheny County Medical Reserve Corps.

He was formerly a member of the National Quality Forum’s Infectious Disease Standing Committee and the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Disaster Medical System, with which he was deployed to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

A graduate of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, Dr. Adalja also has a bachelor of science degree in industrial management from Carnegie Mellon University.

 

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