Doctors question Trump's claim about deadly China virus

President Donald Trump said Monday that he expected the coronavirus epidemic to disappear with the end of winter ― a remark at odds with warnings from infectious disease experts. 

Trump’s comments on the virus known as 2019-nCoV, which has infected more than 42,000 people globally and claimed more than 1,000 lives, came during a White House business session with state governors. 

“A lot of people think that goes away in April as the heat comes in,” he said of the outbreak that began in the Chinese city of Wuhan. “Typically that will go away in April. We’re in great shape though. We have 12 cases, 11 cases, and many of them are in good shape.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed 12 coronavirus infections in the U.S., and testing is pending on 68 other potential cases. 

The president’s remarks set off some concern that he didn’t have a solid understanding of the threat at hand. 

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Rising number of coronavirus cases on the Diamond Princess
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Rising number of coronavirus cases on the Diamond Princess
Journalists work near the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship sitting at the Yokohama Port Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, Yokohama, Japan. The operator of the ship said Monday that an additional 66 cases were found aboard. That is in addition to 70 reported earlier. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
The quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess anchors at the Yokohama Port, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, Yokohama, Japan. Japan’s health ministry said Monday that about 60 more people on the quarantined cruise ship have tested positive for a new virus. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Officials with protective suites prepare work around the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess in the Yokohama Port Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, Yokohama, Japan. Japan’s health ministry said Monday that about 60 more people on the quarantined cruise ship have tested positive for a new virus. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Officials with protective suites walk from the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess in the Yokohama Port Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. Japan. Japan’s health ministry said Monday that about 60 more people on the quarantined cruise ship have tested positive for a new virus. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Passengers stand on the balcony of the cruise ship Diamond Princess anchored off the Yokohama Port in Yokohama, near Tokyo Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. China reported a rise in new virus cases on Monday, possibly denting optimism disease control measures that have isolated major cities might be working, while Japan reported dozens of new cases aboard the quarantined cruise ship. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Some banners are hang by passengers of the cruise ship Diamond Princess anchored off the Yokohama Port Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. China reported a rise in new virus cases on Monday, possibly denting optimism disease control measures that have isolated major cities might be working, while Japan reported dozens of new cases aboard the quarantined cruise ship. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
An official with protective suites walks near the cruise ship Diamond Princess anchored off the Yokohama Port in Yokohama, near Tokyo Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. China reported a rise in new virus cases on Monday, possibly denting optimism disease control measures that have isolated major cities might be working, while Japan reported dozens of new cases aboard the quarantined cruise ship. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Members of the Japan Self Defense Forces prepare the truck to connect with the cruise ship Diamond Princess anchored off the Yokohama Port in Yokohama, near Tokyo Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. China reported a rise in new virus cases on Monday, possibly denting optimism disease control measures that have isolated major cities might be working, while Japan reported dozens of new cases aboard a quarantined cruise ship. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
The cruise ship Diamond Princess is anchored off the Yokohama Port in Yokohama, near Tokyo Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. China reported a rise in new virus cases on Monday, possibly denting optimism disease control measures that have isolated major cities might be working, while Japan reported dozens of new cases aboard a quarantined cruise ship. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
In this Feb. 9, 2020, photo, a passenger stands at the balcony of the cruise ship Diamond Princess anchored off the Yokohama Port in Yokohama, near Tokyo. Japan’s health ministry said Monday, Feb. 10 about 60 more people on the quarantined cruise ship have tested positive for a new virus. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Fire department members gather at the entrance of the cruise ship Diamond Princess which anchors off the Yokohama Port Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. Japan on Saturday reported three more cases of the coronavirus aboard the Diamond Princess for a total of 64. There are 3,700 passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess who must remain on board for 14 days. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A passenger stands on the balcony of the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess anchored at the Yokohama Port in Yokohama, near Tokyo Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. Japan on Saturday reported three more cases of the coronavirus aboard the Diamond Princess for a total of 64. There are 3,700 passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess who must remain on board for 14 days. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A man with wearing a protective suit walks down levels of the qurantined cruise ship Diamond Princess anchored in the Yokohama Port Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, Yokohama, Japan. Japan on Saturday reported three more cases of the coronavirus aboard the Diamond Princess for a total of 64. There are 3,700 passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess who must remain on board for 14 days. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
The quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess is anchored in the Yokohama Port Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. Japan on Saturday reported three more cases of the coronavirus aboard the Diamond Princess for a total of 64 . There are 3,700 passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess who must remain on board for 14 days. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Members of Japan Self Defense Forces walk into the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess in the Yokohama Port Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Yokohama, Japan. China's death toll from the new virus outbreak has risen to over 800, surpassing the number of fatalities in the 2002-03 SARS epidemic, as other governments stepped up efforts to block the disease. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Passengers stand on balconies on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with around 3,600 people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new coronavirus, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 10, 2020. - Around 60 more people on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship moored off Japan have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus, the country's national broadcaster said on February 10, raising the number of infected passengers and crew to around 130. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
Passengers stand on balconies on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with around 3,600 people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new coronavirus, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 10, 2020. - Around 60 more people on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship moored off Japan have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus, the country's national broadcaster said on February 10, raising the number of infected passengers and crew to around 130. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
Passengers stand on balconies on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with around 3,600 people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new coronavirus, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 10, 2020. - Around 60 more people on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship moored off Japan have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus, the country's national broadcaster said on February 10, raising the number of infected passengers and crew to around 130. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
Passengers stand on balconies on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with around 3,600 people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new coronavirus, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 10, 2020. - Around 60 more people on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship moored off Japan have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus, the country's national broadcaster said on February 10, raising the number of infected passengers and crew to around 130. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
People wearing protective suits walk from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with around 3,600 people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new coronavirus, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 10, 2020. - Around 60 more people on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship moored off Japan have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus, the country's national broadcaster said on February 10, raising the number of infected passengers and crew to around 130. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
An ambulance carrying passengers drives away from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with around 3,600 people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new coronavirus, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 10, 2020. - Around 60 more people on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship moored off Japan have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus, the country's national broadcaster said on February 10, raising the number of infected passengers and crew to around 130. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
The Diamond Princess cruise ship, with around 3,600 people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new coronavirus, is seen anchored at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 10, 2020. - Around 60 more people on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship moored off Japan have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus, the country's national broadcaster said on February 10, raising the number of infected passengers and crew to around 130. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
The Diamond Princess cruise ship, with around 3,600 people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new coronavirus, is seen anchored at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 10, 2020. - Six more people on a cruise ship off Japan are found to have the new coronavirus, the government said February 9, bringing the number who have tested positive on board to 70. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
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“This statement minimizes the many critical factors needed for the containment of the outbreak and the prevention of further disease spread, such as adequate infection control measures and contact tracing,” Dr. Britta Lassmann, program director for the International Society for Infectious Diseases, told HuffPost. 

“Data on the role of temperature and climate on the transmissibility of 2019-nCoV are currently lacking,” she added.

Medical workers in protective suits move a patient in an isolated ward of a Wuhan, China, hospital on Feb. 6, 2020.

Trump’s suggestion that the coronavirus outbreak will subside with the onset of warmer temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere is likely based on general trends with viral infections: They often thrive in the colder months because people are spending more time indoors in close proximity to others and because lower humidity in winter allows a virus to remain in the air for longer periods of time. 

But Trump’s rosy outlook is also risky because not all outbreaks subside as the weather warms, and this one remains shrouded in mystery on several fronts. So far, there’s no vaccine and no conclusions on how it spreads, how to cure it or how long it takes for an infected person to show symptoms. It’s already surpassed milestones set by other disease outbreaks, including the death toll of the SARS outbreak 17 years ago. 

“Although some coronavirus infections are seasonal, only time will tell if the 2019 novel coronavirus will behave this way. Some coronavirus species have peaks in the winter and summer,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the CDC and now president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative focused on preventing epidemics. 

Weather’s impact on a disease’s spread, he added, can vary by climate. 

“If nCov behaves as influenza behaves, the seasonality seen in temporal climates may not mean seasonality in tropical climates, where influenza can circulate at high levels all year long,” Frieden explained.

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has also warned about this virus’s unpredictability. Before Trump even made his comments, Schaffner cautioned against relying on the expectation that new infections will slow with spring. 

“Could it be that the change of seasons has an impact on the virus? Lord knows, we hope so,” he told USA Today last week. “It happens with human coronaviruses, we know that. But this is a rogue virus.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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