‘As contagious as measles’: Infectious disease specialist talks about spread of COVID-19 and the push to get vaccinated and boosted

Dr. Paul Kamitsuka says people have let their guard down recently when it comes to protecting themselves and others from COVID-19.
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 8:13 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Dr. Paul Kamitsuka, an infectious disease specialist with Wilmington Health, says people have let their guard down recently when it comes to protecting themselves and others from COVID-19.

“The current viruses are much more contagious than they were before. They’re as contagious as measles. To give you an idea how contagious: if I had measles, and then I leave this room, the air in this room will remain contagious for two hours after I leave. That’s how contagious it is. So anybody who’s not wearing a proper mask like you and I are wearing an N95, or a KN95, is likely to get COVID regardless of whether or not they’ve been vaccinated,” Kamitsuka said. “These days, if you go into any supermarket or airport, almost no one’s wearing a mask, and it’s no surprise, therefore, that we’re seeing such a surge in COVID. And I think what happened to President Biden, this is just proof positive of that.”

President Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, and Dr. Kamitsuka noted that Biden is vaccinated and double-boosted. He states that is why Biden’s only experiencing mild symptoms.

”The message really has to be masking in indoor environments if you don’t want to get COVID.”

Wearing a cloth mask isn’t going to cut it. Kamitsuka says people should be wearing N94 or KN95 masks. He added that surgical masks only give you about a 50% chance of being protected.

“The second thing is if you’ve not been vaccinated, you must get vaccinated because the only people that are dying from COVID now, or 90%, are those who are not vaccinated. But the other 10% are those who were vaccinated like last year, but never got boosted. So, you need two shots and a booster to give you reassurance that you’re not going to be hospitalized or die from COVID.”

At the beginning of the pandemic a big focus was on the older population-- and Kamitsuka says they are still some of the most vulnerable people when it comes to those hospitalized for COVID-19.

“Vulnerable populations, either by virtue of age or immune compromised, are the ones that would be most important to to not only vaccinate, but to boost. And for the rest of us who if we’re healthy. If you’re vaccinated and boosted, you can be pretty assured that you’re probably not going to get that sick if you get COVID. But you don’t want to get COVID in the first place,” Kamitsuka said. “Vaccines have been extraordinary in terms of preventing hospitalization and death. But they’re not very good at protecting you from getting COVID. The only protection is a mask.”

Kamitsuka added that if you are immunocompromised, he recommends getting a second booster shot when you are eligible, but he doesn’t necessarily think a second booster is needed for anyone else who is healthy.

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