KYUK Coronavirus Update: March 19, 2020

Mar 19, 2020

Credit Greg Kim / KYUK

The COVID-19 virus at the heart of the global pandemic is tough to control because, on the face of it, the disease is often not severe. 

Authorities say that most people who get the virus will experience slight flu-like symptoms and get over it without any ill effect. But about 5 percent of people infected will need to go to the hospital, and the worse cases will end up in intensive care and may die. Dr. Elizabeth Bates, with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, says that COVID-19 may feel like the flu, but it is more dangerous, because it’s what’s known as “novel.”

“It’s completely new,” Bates explained. “Our bodies have never seen it before, so it takes time for us to learn how to respond to these types of new viruses. So I would say for older adults especially, it’s definitely higher risk than the flu. The flu is still also very serious and I encourage everyone to get their flu shot every year, but I think older folks, our Elders in particular, are more vulnerable.” 

The reason the coronavirus is so dangerous is that some people may get infected and not have any symptoms at all. They can go around thinking they are well, and unknowingly spread it to others who are much more vulnerable. Also, no amount of home remedies have been proven to work. Not gargling with salt water, not taking deep breaths in the morning or boiling pine needles. These are all treatments being seen on social media. Bates says that the best thing is to stay home and take care of yourself.

“Making sure you remain hydrated. You know, Tylenol can be really useful for reducing a fever. Making sure you are eating even, small bites with crackers, making sure you are getting something in your stomach, getting plenty of rest, doing things like avoiding smoking and avoiding alcohol. Just the things that support your body’s natural healing process. That’s really the best thing to do when you have an infection like this.”

There is no vaccine for the coronavirus yet, and not likely to be one for at least a year. The best that can be done is to keep the virus from spreading, and Bates says that is an area where the medical community does know what works.

“We know the things that work include washing your hands. If you have a cough, wearing a mask. You know we’re talking about limiting social gatherings. If you’re in a group of 10 or more, that increases the risk of getting this virus. We know that those things work.”

Bates warns people not to trust what they read on Facebook, because it’s impossible to know where the information is coming from and whether it is accurate.  She recommends going to the Centers for Disease Control website or to the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation site.


In the coronavirus update for March 19, Mitchell Forbes and Dr. Elizabeth Bates of YKHC discuss current misinformation being disseminated about the coronavirus. They give a quick rundown on what COVID-19 is and how it spreads, and where people should go to get factual information about the disease and its remedies. The two also discuss how to spot misinformation, and how to engage on social media while being respectful of traditional medicine.