UTHSC answers questions about coronavirus threat and preparations

Updated: Feb. 26, 2020 at 4:53 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The University of Tennessee Health Science Center hosted a news conference Wednesday to answer questions about coronavirus.

UTHSC discussed how the university and its affiliates are preparing for coronavirus and how they are educating the community about the illness.

Shelby county health department director Alisa Haushalter says staff is watching for any new cases at local hospitals.

“We monitor that daily to determine if any of the symptoms that brought them to the emergency room are indicative of spreading any illnesses including coronoavirus,” said Haushalter.

Haushalter says state law requires all health providers to report infectious diseases to the health department.

Wednesday the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Staff and community partners such as Regional One and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital said they are ready.

They update and rework pandemic plans daily and working on new ways to inform the public about the spread of the disease.

“So we think the transmission is primarily going to be droplets, sneezing or coughing getting droplets that are infectious that are on surfaces,” said Dr. Jon McCullers, Senior executive associate dean at the UTHSC College of Medicine.

Last Thursday the UTHSC Regional Biocontainment laboratory began studying the novel coronoavirus.

President Trump said Wednesday that he is pushing for at least $2.5 billion in emergency anti-coronavirus funding.

However, Dr. Jon McCullers says infectious disease research is under-funded and the coronavirus outbreak is an example of why that should change.

“That's really one point we should really hammer home. That's the way we're going to be able to deal with these things is being prepared and being prepared is doing your research ahead of time not after it's out,” said Dr. McCullers.

There is currently no vaccine for the coronavirus, but scientists are working on one.

The UTHSC Regional Biocontainment laboratory is currently not a part of the coronavirus vaccination development, but McCullers suspect that will change soon.

McCullers says UTHSC will create a website to update the public about the coronavirus in the mid-south.

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