Fauci Warns of More Viruses Lurking, Says There Is No Doubt We'll Have Future Outbreaks

We must assume there are more viruses "lurking" that could also cause new outbreaks of infectious diseases, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The top immunologist, who has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since the 1980s and is now a member of the White House coronavirus task force, made the comments on Politico's Pulse Check podcast recorded Wednesday and published Thursday.

Host Dan Diamond asked Fauci if there are even scarier viruses, ones that would be more dangerous, still lurking. The COVID-19 coronavirus is thought to have jumped from a bat to humans, likely via an intermediary host. An outbreak of the virus was first reported at a food market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, late last year.

Fauci said: "You have to assume that there are more viruses that are still lurking because we know historically we've had outbreaks long before I've been around, even before recorded history.

"We know that there have been outbreaks recently, we're in the middle of an outbreak now. And there's no doubt that we're going to have outbreaks in the future."

Recent virus outbreaks include SARS in 2003, the flu H1N1 pandemic of 2009, and MERS in 2012.

Fauci said he is often asked if there is anything special about the virus causing the current pandemic, and described it as the "worst-case scenario or my worst nightmare."

The coronavirus which causes COVID-19 has a "spectacular capability" to spread from human to human coupled with the ability to cause a significant degree of sickness or death in high-risk groups, he said.

Ian Jones, professor of virology at the U.K.'s University of Reading, told Newsweek Fauci "is stating the obvious."

"Virus outbreaks from animals to man occur all the time depending on proximity and abundance, in avian flu for example, but only rarely do they efficiently transmit one person to another," Jones said.

When viruses do transmit from human to human, an epidemic or pandemic occurs as there is no existing immunity in the human population.

"These are of varying severity; the flu pandemic of 2009 was relativity mild whereas the current COVID pandemic is severe," Jones said.

Fauci also commented on vaccine development in the wide-ranging interview. He was asked if he would want to be first in line to receive a vaccine if and when it is made available.

"When the vaccine becomes available after a 30,000-person or more placebo-controlled randomized trial—and it's shown to be safe and effective—I would get it any time within the timeframe of the people who prioritize it according to ethical principles," Fauci said.

"In other words, there may be people who need it more than I do, and I would prefer they get it if they need it."

The 79-year-old said he can't escape he's "now the elderly doctor Fauci," and is therefore in the group at risk of complications from COVID-19. "So I would get that vaccine as quickly as I possibly can," he said.

Last week, biotechnology company Moderna launched its Phase 3 trial of its coronavirus vaccine, for which it aims to recruit 30,000 volunteers.

On Thursday, Fauci told CNN he was "satisfied" with enrollment in the first week. He said he hopes there will be enough data to show whether or not the vaccine works by November or December, but doubted it would come as early as October.

According to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll published earlier this week, 43 percent of voters said they would be far more likely to take a vaccine based on the advice of Fauci, versus their family at 46 percent, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also at 43 percent.

Only 14 percent said they would be more likely to take a vaccine if President Donald Trump recommended it. The poll was conducted between July 31 and August 2, and involved a national sample of 1,991 registered voters.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies before a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on July 31, 2020 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images