What does ‘flatten the curve’ mean?

Dennis Carroll, an expert in infectious diseases, speaks on how to “flatten the curve,” which countries have been the most effective in doing so and the U.S. federal government's response.
4:15 | 03/21/20

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Transcript for What does ‘flatten the curve’ mean?
You have likely heard the phrase flattening curve used when talking about reducing the number of corona virus cases but what does that mean exactly and how can we do it. For more and that would like to bring in infectious disease expert and former federal virus hunter doctor Dennis Carroll who joins us now live from Washington DC doctor cal thanks much for joining us. So can you remind us of exactly what that means flattening the curve and why is that the most important thing for people to be thinking about right now. Well I think it's. We've seen the actions taken in California Illinois New York. That our intention. To speed with which this virus is spreading across America. That if we let it continue to insect. To direction it is now. Using the limited interventions we have now. With since three to four weeks our health system it's gonna completely collapse overwhelmed by the number of people seeking urgent care slack in the curb. Is basically what can we do you took really profoundly impact on the number of people that are being exposed and infected. And if we don't really take the kind of actions that are being now undertaken in California and elsewhere. That we are in it really an historic position of facing health crisis that we've never. Authorities before so flattening the curve is basically option and we reduce the number of people exposed today. So that three weeks from now the numbers of people showing up at Tulsa facility are far fewer than those are showing up the day before. Now when we look at that charted shows the flattening of the curve also means that the virus last longer but I imagine there's no concern about prolonging the outbreak. Well the biggest concern is that if we in fact. Welcome force our health system. Into a critical state we're not not going to be able to provide critical treatment for this particular barbour's potential system itself is going to. Beach challenge to provide normative. Services for. Critical needs of people. Other than the virus shifts were able to flatten the curve and slows the number of people who are becoming infected. Impulses team is better positioned. To be able to provide services not just for this virus but for critical other health needs. Understood and which countries have most effectively flattens a curve of their out brazen how to they go about doing that. Well clearly we've seen South Korea. Demonstrate through a robust. Community effort. Shoot except they can break the spread of the virus and dramatically reduce the numbers of people. God daughter exposed and infected. So we need to look at this South Korea is to really. Ask ourselves what can we do here. To achieve the same outcome and I sink what we're seeing him for instance in California. Is an example loves extraordinary measures that are going to be needed. If we're going don't really produced a numbers of people who are infected over the next three weeks otherwise we're going to look and an awful lot. Like what's going on in Italy today. Do you have a sense of what South Korea was able to do so effectively. Well first thought they had an extremely effective and widely distributed diagnostic capability something that we have failed to do. Until just recently and they were able to Jews had information to be able to target can mobilize. High risk communities in high risk groups. To be able to lower exposures and isolate and contain other mouton of that virus oaks we are greatly handicapped. Because of the loss of opportunity to Jews diagnostics. And to be able to tell us where the viruses who's infected. So we're really amount much more vulnerable state. By the failure of being able to provide those critical early interventions. All right doctor Carolyn thank you so much appreciate your time.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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