COVID-19 Research with Dr. Joanne Turner

We all have a lot of questions about COVID-19 these days! Inga Cotton spoke with Dr. Joanne Turner, Vice President for Research for Texas Biomedical Research Institute https://www.txbiomed.org/scientists/j… about the work that Texas Biomed is doing to better understand SARS-Cov-2 and to explain, from a scientific perspective, what we can do to keep our families and our community safe.

The scientists at Texas Biomed have years of experience studying infectious diseases. Recently, they made a rapid shift to studying SARS-CoV-2. Read more: https://www.expressnews.com/business/… Dr. Turner said that they are preparing to share results from a study of animal models for COVID-19—three different species of monkeys who can get the infection and can be used to study the effectiveness of potential vaccines. Texas Biomed is also doing basic research to understand how the virus affects the body.

What do scientists know about COVID-19 so far? It’s different from the flu in some important ways—for example, it has a higher mortality rate. Also, SARS-CoV-2 has asymptomatic transmission—people can spread the virus before they feel sick or show any symptoms. (Think of chicken pox and measles.) Wearing masks helps protect the people around us, in case we are sick and don’t know it yet.

At this stage, the best ways to prevent infection are old-fashioned methods like spreading out 6′-10′ apart, and careful hand washing. Dr. Turner uses the theme song from “Jaws” to make sure she washes her hands long enough. (Use https://washyourlyrics.com/ to make your own reminder.)

It can be a challenge to talk to kids about COVID-19 and how to stay safe. Texas Biomed has created an e-book to help:
https://www.txbiomed.org/wp-content/u…

Our readers asked questions during the live stream, particularly about how businesses, parks, etc. are reopening. There are so many basic questions that scientists are still trying to answer, but Dr. Turner offered some advice. If you are considering participating in an activity, think about who will be in your space—have they also been practicing social distancing? Look at what procedures the business has in place: for example, if it’s a gym, are they cleaning the equipment, and keeping people spaced out?

People were getting out and being more social over Memorial Day weekend. Dr. Turner is watching the data to see if, two weeks from now, we see a spike in cases as a result. This will tell us more about how the virus works, and will help us predict what may happen in the fall when kids to back to school.

Dr. Turner urges us to take care of our health, to eat well and feed our kids well, and to stay active. Being too sedentary while staying home could have long term consequences. Keep exercising and going to your doctor for checkups.

At Texas Biomed, Dr. Turner and many of her colleagues have been working remotely, including some who are educating their children at home. About a third of their staff have been coming to work to care for the animals—that’s a job that never stops. Scientists have started coming back to work to continue their research projects, on COVID-19 as well as other infectious diseases, on staggered schedules. Along with researchers at Southwest Research Institute, UTHealth, and many other institutions around the world, the scientists at Texas Biomed are working towards a safe and effective vaccine to protect us from COVID-19.

Here are some resources to learn more:

Watch a webinar with Dr. Larry Schlesinger, President/CEO of Texas Biomed: https://youtu.be/p7E3_RRPRyE

Learn more about Texas Biomed through their community engagement program: https://www.txbiomed.org/events/commu…

We are so thankful to Dr. Turner for being part of Charter Moms Chats, and to our readers for sharing such great questions during the show.

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