Some expert advice on Coronavirus

Some expert advice on Coronavirus


norman lebrecht

March 02, 2020

From the eminent pathologist Dr James Robb:

Date: February 26, 2020

Subject: What I am doing for the upcoming COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

Dear Colleagues, as some of you may recall, when I was a professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego, I was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses (the 1970s). I was the first to demonstrate the number of genes the virus contained. Since then, I have kept up with the coronavirus field and its multiple clinical transfers into the human population (e.g., SARS, MERS), from different animal sources.

The current projections for its expansion in the US are only probable, due to continued insufficient worldwide data, but it is most likely to be widespread in the US by mid to late March and April.
Here is what I have done and the precautions that I take and will take. These are the same precautions I currently use during our influenza seasons, except for the mask and gloves.:

1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.
2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.
3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip – do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.
4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.
5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.
6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands.
7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!
What I have stocked in preparation for the pandemic spread to the US:
1) Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas.

Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average – everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs) The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.
2) Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you – it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth – it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.
3) Stock up now with hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves (get the appropriate sizes for your family). The hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.
4) Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available.

I, as many others do, hope that this pandemic will be reasonably contained, BUT I personally do not think it will be. Humans have never seen this snake-associated virus before and have no internal defense against it. Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus. Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved. BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available.

I hope these personal thoughts will be helpful during this potentially catastrophic pandemic. You are welcome to share this email. Good luck to all of us! Jim
James Robb, MD FCAP

Dr. Robb is a recognized expert in biospecimen science with over 50 years of experience in molecular pathology, virology, and genetics. He is board certified in anatomic pathology, clinical pathology, cytopathology, and dermatopathology. Dr. Robb is a consulting pathologist to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research (OBBR).

UPDATE Second Opinion: Don’t wear a mask


  • Gustavo says:

    Keep your hands out of your own face.

  • Cassandra says:

    Great job!

    Best summary of tangible advice I’ve come across anywhere so far.

  • FriendofDorothy says:

    I would like to see ageing listeners of classical music open doors with their hips …

  • Amos says:

    Regrettably Dr. Robb and scientists with similar expertise are nowhere to be found as part of the trump administrations non-existent blue-ribbon panel to deal with COVID-19. The most important issues for this administration are the Dow Jones Industrial stock value and making sure that no one criticizes the manner in which trump/pence discuss and handle the crisis. The fact that US-made virus test kits were released with defective reagents, and thereby delayed the id of infected individuals, is both an embarrassment and inexcusable disgrace. Anyone who has ever worked in science is aware of how QC/QA of biologics are supposed to be carried out.

    • Ray Lowry says:

      Is it possible to reply to anything today and not try and create a political wrecking ball? Why don’t we blame the Truman administration for not allowing China to be destroyed with Atomic Bombs during the Korean conflict? No wait, it is the fault of the Nixon Administration for traveling to China and encouraging the business world to expand there! Give me a break already!

      • Amos says:

        On a delay basis the trump administration misrepresents and/or lies about the facts regarding the severity, treatment and response to a global pandemic. Three days ago dt claimed that the US was close to having ZERO cases. Yesterday he again wanted to know why scientists weren’t simply distributing the “materials” they had in hand and after being told a Phase 2 trial might be able to start in 2 months said so we’ll have a vaccine in 2 months. Today dt said he has a feeling that the WHO estimate of 3% lethality is in fact lower and that people feeling better should go back to work. The US and the world are facing a public health crisis not seen since 1918 yet all the trump administration is concerned with is minimizing events so as to improve his re-election prospects. Oh and I forgot that yesterday the Secretary of HHS opined that once a vaccine is available the market should dictate the price. For some reason I don’t recall the Eisenhower administration saying that the market should dictate the price of the polio vaccine. We can stop creating “political wrecking balls” when we have a humane and informed chief executive in Washington!!

    • jane says:

      it is a distortion to say trump is only after the dow jones, remember you are also one of those who benefit in a good economy, good economy means you have food on your table, you can pay your mortgage, you have money for your children’s needs, you are not stress with medical bills etc. etc. etc. in short, less stress, can enjoy life a lot better than the previous administration. compare america to the the other countries as to the resources and preparedness, america is extremely lucky. there is no perfect solution to everything, in a perfect world yes, and where is the perfect world? as what john kennedy said…ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country…so what can you do right now, quit whining, and instead, thank you i live in america…or better yet, go and live and experience life in another country, as in immersed yourself truly, madly, deeply in another country, and you will realize. THERE IS NO OTHER AMERICA. peace! and spread positivity during this time instead of negativity.

      • Amos says:

        I sincerely hope that English is not your native language. We had a good economy from 2009-2016 with a President who was intelligent, humane and not a corrupt despot-wannabe. The essence of being an American is speaking up when leadership falls short of protecting the Constitution and the well-being of all our citizens. Positivity is fighting, rhetorically, for what is just because THERE IS NO OTHER AMERICA!!

        • Maria says:

          speaking up is different from whining.

          • Amos says:

            So I gather it is whining to point out that the trump administration refused to follow the recommendation of the CDC and public health professionals to publicly advise elderly citizens to avoid taking commercial flights until further notice. After all airline stocks have suffered enough. The alternative is clearly to tune in to fox news from 7-11 PM and watch sycophants mock the seriousness of the pandemic.

  • Mather Pfeiffenberger says:

    Can you tell us where this was originally posted?

  • Gustavo says:

    “Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.”

    We shouldn’t be using “gasoline dispensers” anyway.

    How dare you. The house is on fire.

    Go on – disinfect your Steinway or try playing it with your knuckles!

  • OM says:

    As a pathologist, he is hardly an expert on the COVID-19. I would rather stick with advice from the CDC.

    • Julie says:

      Actually a pathologist would be able to see things a physician can’t. Alzheimer’s for example, can only be PROVEN in an autopsy – otherwise it is suspected by clinical symptoms.

    • Barbara says:

      He is also a virologist.

      • Peter San Diego says:

        Not only a virologist but also a leading authority on coronavirus.

        • Wendy says:

          Interesting though that he said the virus is associated with snakes while the CDC and other sources I’ve heard say the source is bats.

  • Julie says:

    Where was this originally posted? I’ve seen it attached to ads for zinc lozenges and all kinds of other places. I presume this wasn’t sent directly to you by the doctor and it is certainly sound advice, but I don’t recall anyone mentioning zinc lozenges during SARS.

    Do you know where the original post is? A search brings up only Facebook, twitter, instagram, and blogs.

    • John says:

      I’m having my doubts about this, the claim that zinc lozenges has been PROVEN to block coronavirus is a pretty bold claim. I haven’t found any evidence to back this up. Also telling people to stockpile these items can’t be good, just gonna make people go more crazy.

  • ROSE ROMAN says:

    Thank You for sharing your knowledge with us!!! We need to know the truth and everything you shared is So Important so we can know what to expect and what to do!!!! May God Bless You and the people.

  • Gustavo says:

    8) Don’t suck your knuckles.

  • Heather says:

    Is this virus spread even when you have no symptoms? The HSE in Ireland have advised students who travelled to affected areas should stay at home only when they have symptoms. This doesn’t make sense to me!

    • Amos says:

      Yes, asymptomatic individuals can infect others by the same mechanism as those with clear symptoms of disease.

    • AZ says:

      There’s a prodomal period during which one becomes sick and has yet to exhibit signs or experience symptoms. You’re right; unfortunately, it doesn’t make sense.

  • Dave says:

    Did a Dr.James Robb really write this advice?

    1) Where’s the original link? He has a Wikipedia article dedicated to him, written yesterday. But finding out anything about him elsewhere on the web isn’t easy.

    2) The advice about face masks is the exact opposite of what healthcare professionals are saying.

    So I wonder if someone in the business of selling face masks wrote the advice, or if it’s possibly part of a disinformation campaign. Why would Robb be a contrarian about this? And when didn’t he address the opposite advice?

    3) There’s no evidence zinc has any effect on a coronavirus. There’s been one study showing it might shorten the time someone has a cold.

    As above, I wonder if someone in the business of selling face masks wrote the advice, or if it’s possibly part of a disinformation campaign.

  • Violet says:

    A co-worker shared this exact article with a bunch of us at work, saying this advice came from her dad’s friend, who is a professor of pathology. However, this advice is contrary to what the CDC recommends, and plays upon fear marketing. I have doubts that this was written by an actual professor/pathologist/virologist. Your best bet is to follow CDC guidelines. Save the masks and gloves for healthcare workers who NEED the protection.

    • AZ says:

      We all need the protection. That’s kind of like saying only certain people need to use condoms to reduce risk of STI’s.

      • Wendy says:

        Healthcare staff are at much higher risk than the general public due to constant exposure to sick people!

    • Newton says:

      You’re not paying attention. He’s suggesting ordinary face masks to stop us touching our faces. He wrote this to friends, presumably those who would be interested in knowing his own expert opinion. If someone wishes to depend entirely on what the CDC is telling us to do, then there’s no need to read anything else. Don’t buy any rubber gloves. Really really smart doctors and scientists disagree sometimes. It can be interesting to get other opinions.

  • NotSneezing says:

    If he is such a respected MD why is he calling it a pandemic when it has not been declared as such?

  • Claudia says:

    Thank you for your advice. Very important at this time. Maybe a silly question, but would paper be considered a surface that can carry the virus. We handle lots of paper at work, goes from hands to hands within days. Should I be concerned.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Yes, paper is “a surface”. Although it is pretty unlikely that you will catch the virus, and if you do then you will almost certainly only have a mild flu.

  • Diane Smith says:

    Many comments are critical of Dr. Robb’s mention of masks and zinc in his personal advice to help avoid the present coronavirus situation we’re facing. The way I read it is:
    1. the mask “will not prevent the virus” – he’s not saying it will protect you from the virus, but it will serve as a reminder to not touch your face (as we do this subconsciously, many times a day). I think most people can work at not touching their face without the mask.
    2., as to the Zinc – this is an immune booster and Dr. Robb claims it has” proven to be effective for keeping viruses from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx”.

    My take is that Dr. Robb, in trying to cover all bases, may have gone beyond what the average person is willing and able to buy into, but I wouldn’t hesitate to take zinc for boosting immunity, especially for those with compromised immunity and the elderly, who may need help in fighting viruses of any kind.

    Bottom line: Do what you can to protect yourself and others – and hope for the best.

  • Diane Smith says:

    2. as to the Zinc, Dr. Robb doesn’t say that Zinc will protect you from the virus outright – Zinc is an immune booster – he claims it “has proven to be effective for keeping viruses from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx”.

  • Gloria Rose says:

    It says it can only be spread if someone coughs or sneezes on you, but still talks about being so careful with surfaces. That seems to be a contradiction.

    • John says:

      What the article meant is that it is spread via droplet not airborne. The droplets can only travel so far but can stay alive on surfaces for a few days. That’s my take anyway.

  • Doubtful says:

    Strange that an eminent person would nominate a particular brand of lozenge, especially when there “are others out there”. This couldn’t have been written by a shill for Cold-Eeze, could it?

  • Zita Strother says:

    Can the virus not enter thru the eye membrane as well?

    • John says:

      He is possible but not nearly as likely because your eyes are pretty efficient at keeping themselves clean. Also it seems as tho this virus only has receptors for your lung cells.

  • Jimmy says:

    For everyone claiming Robb didn’t write this, Snopes reached out to Dr. Robb, and he did indeed write this, but it was intended for his close friends and family only. Here is the link:

    • Taz says:

      Honestly I do not trust snopes after having found them to be flat out wrong on several issues that were easily verifiable.

  • ilio says:

    According to snopes this a real post. However, I’d contest some of the misinformation the Dr. gives.

    Current CDC and WHO recommendations for some years is that you wash your hands AT LEAST 20 seconds.

    DO NOT hoard surgical masks. There is a world wide shortage of them and hospitals are already having a hard time getting them. Save them for healthcare workers and those who already have COVID-19. The masks work better for those who are sick to prevent them from spreading the illness. It doesn’t do a good job protecting those who don’t have it. Some studies have shown that people wearing masks tend to touch their faces more often. That’s how you pick up the disease.

    Gloves not used properly can spread the disease. Better to wash your hands often and don’t touch your face.

  • A banker smarter than you! says:

    Why would you tell others to buy masks. Masks aren’t made to fit everyone hence they will touch their face, nose and chin (bear mouth) constantly adjusting the mask. Surprising from an expert. When all the consumers buy and waste time with a mask and the medical professionals, dental, and those who are sick and others do not have them as needed. I hope you give your up to those who actually need them!

  • KD says:

    One reference to Dr. James Robb on the web that appears legit:
    However, no sign of him on LinkedIn. And, there’s no guarantee that just because this is a real person that he actually wrote this article.

    Will the real Dr. James Robb please stand up.

  • Gustavo says:

    There is a certain James Robb from San Diego on researchgate.

    But with 23 published research items, he doesn’t appear to be very eminent.

    However, he may have been eminent in the past so that he can afford not to update his researchgate profile and go commercial.

  • okiegill says:

    Surgeon General said do not stock up on Masks. They will not protect you from the virus. This is for caseworkers that come into contact with sick in a medical situation. The masks are very hard to find now. Need to save what’s left for the medical community. Pray, Pray that you don’t get this..

    • Saxon Broken says:

      The death rate from getting it is pretty low. Almost certainly you will only be mildly sick for a few days if you get it, and some people have no symptoms at all.

  • Sue Felker says:

    I have RA and Paget’s Bone Disease. I take Chemo 4 times a year for life. Am I more susceptible to the virus or in other words should I take other precautions to prevent me from getting it.

  • CLC says:

    If you check “Snopes”, he did indeed write it. It has been changed and exaggerated.

  • drubian says:

    1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump


    So this virus is not contagious from the back of the hand?

    Very interesting advice…

  • Dale Willis says:

    We were at my grand son funeral yesterday and a lot of hug’s and shakeing hands hope we don’t get sick.

  • William Orr says:

    Thank you for taking the time to make many many people aware of the correct procedures to adopt immediately.’
    I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and I am sure we will not escape this horrible virus as it makes it’s way throughout North America. Unfortunately most pharmacies are sold out of hand sanitizers and facial masks. I am not sure of restocking possibilities however common sense must prevail if nothing is available. Thank you again Sir for passing on your superb knowledge. WKO.

  • David says:

    This directly contradicts medical advice from experts regarding face masks.

    Use a facemask only if you are a high-risk individual, if you suspect you have the virus or if you’re a healthcare professional.

    People buying masks unneccessarily are driving shortages that put front-line medical staff in jeopardy.

  • suzana says:

    nu strica ,,,,,,higiena

  • Candace says:

    Thank you for such a comprehensive and time-lined article. I’ve spoken to several PhD’s, but you are the only one who was able to break the COVID-19 down to understandable terms. Because of your article, which I received it via a friend, I was able to prepare for this.

    The news media and many other so called experts didn’t give a comprehensive explanation, thus, confussing many.

    Is there a more direct way of getting your communications, than waiting for a friend to send me information?

    Thank-you for carrying about humanity.

    Kudos-We need more people like you in this world.

  • PJ Sievert says:

    Thank you

  • Kelley says:

    I’m concerned about the possible choking hazard regarding the suggestion to lie down while allowing the zinc lozenge to dissolve.

  • Cheryl says:

    All these masks that we are able to buy now have a little slip of paper on the inside stating made in China I have two that I had first but when the pandemic started they canceled my order but it wound up sending them anyway and charged me a course which I expect them to but they came from China and they are the washable rebreather‘s are the things that we are buying safe to wear? Also if we are unable to get anything from China how is all this coming about three weeks ago all these masks started showing up from China? What is going on ?
    Everything we are reading is stating that it can be on clothing for up to a week or more they don’t even know how long you can actually stay on cloth or materials in the outer masks cannot be washed because then they won’t form to your face only the inserts this whole thing makes no sense why are we still excepting things from China why are we as a Country ( as a whole ) Still supporting and buying from them.
    I wholeheartedly agree that this came from a lab test did not come from any market it has other streams stemming from it that’s affecting pediatric children what is next? After all of this stage one stage two and a majority of states being in stage III we’re not hearing as much of it on the radios and TVs anymore unless you listen to the Christian channel which many don’t….. people are starting to slack the numbers are not decreasing by any means maybe in certain states because they’re smart and haven’t even went to stage two yet but the ones that are open to stage three are still having numbers that are outlandish this fall and he’s going to hit 10 times fold in this country is not gonna know what hit it it’s going to be too cold and we won’t have eight months for it to warm up to try to calm down again. I have parents that live 3000 miles away that I cannot see they live in Las Vegas they haven’t even made it to stage two yet our numbers are higher than theirs and we’re already on stage III these governors need to start thinking about the people more than their money I know we need an economy but what type of economy are we going to have with out people…… It even states the masks don’t even work just basically to keep us from touching our face . I would like to know the truth as well as many others is there anything that can help other than washing your hands and sanitizing? And are we looking at another 13 to 15 year span like back in 1917? So many questions unanswered and so many answers that are improper. The Chinese doctor that passed away two days after he had already admitted that it escaped from a lab ( go figure) tried to warn others and get specifics in but I took care of him really quick , so what are we dealing with here?????That my friend is the truth. Are we all knocking on deaths door? Is it only a matter of time? I wish someone could tell the truth. It is kind of funny how restrictions were being put on China by President Trump not to mention the documentary pandemic came out two months before the pandemic hit and if anyone has not watch that please watch it on Netflix you will flip your lid people knew this was coming. I know some may think that I’m blowing a lot of hot air balloon majority of this hot air is verified and true. God bless you all may God be with you because all we have is our higher power. I would love to see how much the earth has regenerated since all this started I guarantee you it’s immaculate and once the changes have been documented there needs to be proper restrictions or else we’re going to lose this beautiful planet.

  • Cheryl says:

    It was supposed to say they took care of him really quick ( when speaking of the Chinese Dr) God test his soul. Sorry about the slip ups I start texting ato fast and that’s what happens.

  • Gretta dowley says:

    Thank you james robb for your knowledge I read in late february which helped be alot.