Face to Face with the Coronavirus

Ran Nir-Paz MD is currently a senior Infectious Diseases physician in the department of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Hadassah Medical Organization. A worldwide expert on human Mycoplasma infections, he is the Chair of the ESGMAC — the ESCMID Mycoplasma and Chlamydia Infections Study Group, as well as the chair of the organizing committee of the 23rd International Organization for Mycoplasmology this July (if the COVID19 will not stop international conferences). Dr. Nir-Paz is one of the pioneers of clinical use of phages (bacterial viruses) to treat hard to eradicate bacterial infections.

Dr. Nir-Paz is also involved in the Israeli Diseases Society for infectious diseases, where he was treasurer for 4 years and currently is responsible for the Infectious Diseases national guidelines. He graduated from the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine in 1995 where he specialized in Internal medicine and served as the chief resident. Additionally, he also performed a research fellowship at the Portnoy lab at the University of California, Berkeley.

About the Episode

Dr. Ran Nir-Paz, a highly respected infectious disease expert at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, has traveled to Japan many times, but the trip he took last month was unlike any other. Hundreds of people — aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship — including four Israelis — contracted the coronavirus known as COVID-19. The Israeli government needed someone to help and so they called the 54-year-old doctor.

Dr. Nir-Paz jumped at the chance. "It's really a fascinating thing to study a new disease," he said. "For an infectious disease physician, I obviously love infectious diseases and I love both the pathogens and the people. So, when you get to know a new infectious disease, it's kind of a challenge just to get to know it, to understand what's going on."

He got to see it up close and personal. He flew to Japan on February 18 and spent several days checking on the Israeli patients. Since he had potentially been exposed to the virus, upon his return to Israel he quarantined himself inside his home for two weeks. So, what's it like living in quarantine? Well, there's only one way to find out. We called up Dr. Nir-Paz.

Under quarantine at his home in Jerusalem, he's reading and catching up on a backlog of emails and other work. With no patients he can tend to and with free time on his hands, it turned out to be an opportune time to have a long conversation with the doctor about the coronavirus.

We recorded that call for this very special episode of "Hadassah On Call." What insights can he offer about the outbreak? Does he think it will get worse before it gets better? Are certain demographics like the elderly or pregnant women more susceptible to the disease? How is Hadassah Hospital responding to the crisis? And what practical actions can we take in our own daily life to help us stay safe? Plus, how does this epidemic compare to outbreaks of the past — like SARS and Swine Flu? "As an infectious disease physician, you're being taught that you will see something once a decade which is big," he told us. "So, obviously, this is the one in a decade thing. The question is if this is the once a decade or once in a century."

What makes this mutation particularly pernicious is that it can be so mild at times that people may not even realize they have the virus. "Such people are being called the 'super spreaders,'" Dr. Nir-Paz explained. "When they feel very healthy and interact with a lot of people and spread — I would say spread the word, but in this case, they spread the virus."

We ended our chat by asking the doctor what the first thing will be he does when he gets out of quarantine. Tune in to hear his answer.

Further reading:

Read about Dr. Nir-Paz's trip to Japan
Video: Dr. Nir-Paz thanks his medical colleagues at a Japanese hospital

Read a transcript of this episode.

"Hadassah On Call: New Frontiers in Medicine" is a production of Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America. Hadassah enhances the health of people around the world through medical education, care and research innovations at the Hadassah Medical Organization. For more information on the latest advances in medicine please head over to hadassah.org.

Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app. If you haven't already, please leave us a review on the iTunes store. It only takes a minute and when you do it helps others discover "Hadassah on Call."

The show is hosted by Benyamin Cohen and edited by Skyler Inman and the team at the Hadassah offices in both New York and Israel.

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This podcast offers a glimpse into the everyday lives of Jews and Arabs in Israel forging meaningful relationships. Presented by Hadassah and hosted by Dina Kraft, "The Branch" shines a light on the stories of people living the example of a shared society. Together. Even though it's complicated hadassah.org/thebranch

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