Dr. Ran Nir-Paz (left) and Revital Ben-Naim, the Consul to the Israeli Embassy in Tokyo, on their way to visit Israeli patients at the hospital. Dr. Ran Nir-Paz (left) and Revital Ben-Naim, the Consul to the Israeli Embassy in Tokyo, on their way to visit Israeli patients at the hospital. Dr. Ran Nir-Paz (left) and Revital Ben-Naim, the Consul to the Israeli Embassy in Tokyo, on their way to visit Israeli patients at the hospital. (Photo: Courtesy Hadassah Medical Organization)

Life in quarantine, from a doctor on the front lines of the coronavirus

For Dr. Ran Nir-Paz of Hadassah Hospital, it's all about making the best of a tough situation.

In mid-February, Dr. Ran Nir-Paz left his home in Israel to help coronavirus-stricken patients in Japan. His visit came in response to a cluster of coronavirus cases aboard the 3,700-passenger Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was found to have the virus. With more than 500 known cases from the ship, it's the largest cluster outside of mainland China.

While in Japan, Nir-Paz was tasked with treating three Israeli patients who were infected with the virus. He convened with other physicians there, researching the patients' medical histories and speaking with the patients themselves (through an intercom). He made sure any issues weren't being missed because of the language barrier. And, as he wrapped up his visit, he said the patients he saw had minor cases and are going to be OK.

And then he went home. But it wasn't quite business as usual.

Nir-Paz, an infectious disease physician with Hadassah Hospital, was sent to quarantine in his home for two weeks. When we reached him there on Monday, the father of three said he's trying to keep busy with work, while also continuing to keep apprised of the outbreak.

"I can finally get ahead on this backlog," he told From The Grapevine. "I can get things done that I wouldn't be able to do at the office." He was supposed to give a lecture on the coronavirus outbreak at a conference this week, but instead he'll deliver it via webcam from home. After that's done, he might do some gardening. And read a book or two.

His family can be in the house with him, but he has to stay in a separate room. He can go downstairs to eat when everyone leaves. "I can see them from a distance," he said, laughing.

"It's not fun," he told us. "You just have to be patient."

The new coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, and cases have been reported across the globe. The new coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, and cases have been reported across the globe. (Photo: Getty Images)

Coping with quarantine

Quarantine is a routine technique for preventing the spread of disease after spending time in an infected area, but it's getting plenty of attention now as more people around the world are being ordered to self-quarantine after reports of the coronavirus's spread are increasing.

Coronavirus – specifically covid-19, the disease caused by it – has killed about 2,600 people to date. In Israel, for example, about 200 students and teachers have been ordered to isolate themselves in their homes for two weeks after coming into contact with a group of South Koreans potentially infected with the virus. Iran, South Korea and Italy are also impacted, with 10 towns in Italy going on lockdown over the weekend.

The 14-day quarantine was put in place because that's the estimated incubation time for the disease. If a person is quarantined for 14 days with no signs of the illness, they are considered healthy and can return to normal life.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship was quarantined off the coast of Japan as hundred of passengers tested positive for the coronavirus. The Diamond Princess cruise ship was quarantined off the coast of Japan as hundreds of passengers tested positive for the coronavirus. (Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP via Getty Images)

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Life in quarantine, from a doctor on the front lines of the coronavirus
For Dr. Ran Nir-Paz of Hadassah Hospital, who just treated 3 coronavirus patients in Japan, it's all about making the best of a tough situation.