Dr. Franz Wiesbauer could not believe what he was seeing.
It was the middle of February, and the Diamond Princess cruise ship was idling in port in Japan. On board, the number of passengers infected with the novel coronavirus was steadily climbing: first 10, then 200, then more than 600 cases. And as Wiesbauer looked on from his home in Austria, a slinking thought grew ever more pronounced in the forefront of his mind.
“‘Shit,’ I thought. When I saw how fast that virus spread within that ship, it was kind of scary,” he recalls.
Within weeks the coronavirus spread from China and across Asia, Europe, and the United States. So Wiesbauer, a trained internist and epidemiologist, did what he thought any doctor with a YouTube channel should do: He made a video. And it blew up.
“I made a video about flattening the curve and became famous,” he says. “I get calls from media now on a daily basis. There was never a time when a layperson was so interested to learn the stuff we have to tell.”
That first coronavirus video racked up more than 300,000 views. Since then, Wiesbauer has been putting up multiple new videos every week. He uses cartoons and graphics to explain such topics as herd immunity and seasonality in five- to 10-minute clips. Each video is hosted on the Medmastery channel, which provides medical instruction for doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, and nurse practitioners.
Before the coronavirus, Wiesbauer’s videos would rack up a few hundred views. But a video he uploaded earlier this month about symptoms of coronavirus was viewed more than 700,000 times.
As the world grapples with the new pandemic, the average person with no medical training frantically searches for answers on how to prepare and respond. Many turn to federal, state, and local officials and health departments.