UAB infectious disease doctor contracts COVID-19, asks people to take virus more seriously

Coronavirus

BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) — Dr. Mike Saag, an infectious disease doctor at UAB, contracted COVID-19 during a family trip to New York.

Saag told CBS 42 he did everything he possibly could to avoid getting the virus, but when he returned home Saturday, he immediately put himself in quarantine, realizing he was showing symptoms of the virus.

“I did everything I knew to do to not become infected. I washed my hands frequently and had social distancing, I wiped down tray tables and everything on my train ride from Boston to New York. I did everything I knew to do but despite that, I still became infected. So what’s the message? Stay home,” Saag said.

Saag said he never ran a fever, but he did have a cough, fatigue, headache, and runny nose. He believes his symptoms are mild , but at first, he was worried because of his age.

“The number one thing I was concerned about at the age of 64 was that I’m in that group of people who are at biggest risk for respiratory failure, bad ammonia and so I started thinking ‘Am I going to get sicker, end up in intensive care, or am I going to survive,'” Saag said. “All those thoughts went through my head. Fortunately, I had a mild case but at my age and those older than me, the possibility of getting sick is very real.”

Saag stressed the importance of staying home and taking the rules of social distancing seriously. He said that right now, he would give society a “D” grade for social distancing. He said we’re in this for the long haul and need to hunker down.

“I can say with certainty it’s going to be at least three months and the question for all of us is what does that three months going look like? Is it going to be a catastrophe where social infrastructure and health infrastructures break down or are we going to be able to manage this by flattening the curve and making sure we have a controlled landing rather than a crash?” he said.

Saag’s message to everyone is that we’re at the beginning of all of this and if we can flatten the curve now, we will help our healthcare systems out so they are not overwhelmed.


“We’re in a war,” he said. “This virus is our enemy and it’s invaded our borders. It’s invaded our community. We have to act now to fight it and the best way to fight it is to protect ourselves, family, and community by staying home.”

UAB has released an updated statement on Dr. Saag saying, “It is important to note that after returning from his trip, he did not work or see patients. When tested, all proper isolation and protective protocols were followed to ensure safe testing.”

Saag said it’s estimated that one-third of the U.S. population will get COVID-19, which is why it’s so important to follow social distancing rules so everyone doesn’t get sick all at once.


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