Michigan Tech Virologist, Vaccinologist talks COVID-19

Coronavirus

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) — COVID-19 has reached the Upper Peninsula and like many, we wanted to get a better understanding of why it has caused this pandemic.

Michigan Technological University’s Dr. Ebenzer Tumban is an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Director and Advisor for the Graduate Program. But Dr. Tumban is also a trained molecular virologist and vaccinologist.

“This coronavirus pandemic is different from the 1918 flu pandemic, the spanish flu pandemic, where more than 20 million people died from the infection. Apart from that, worldwide, there have been other pandemics related to the flu, but not at the magnitude of what we are seeing with COVID-19,” said Dr. Ebenezer Tumban, Molecular Virologist and Vaccinologist, Michigan Tech University.

Dr. Ebenezer Tumban says Coronaviruses were first discovered late in the 1950’s, early 60’s. In the beginning, the symptoms were similar to the common cold, with sneezing and a runny nose.

In this century, within the last two decades,  3 new coronaviruses have been associated with deathly human infections, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) & Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and in December of 2019, China discovered the newest form of Coronavirus, COVID-19.

“In the case of COVID-19, it can cause what is known as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, where the lungs kind of look like they are filled with fluid with water, which makes it difficult to take up oxygen and if it cannot take up oxygen, then it’s going to be difficult for the body to take oxygen and basically the body is going to go under Hypoxia and that’s one of the reasons why I think this virus is very deadly.”

Doctor Tumban believes COVID-19 is not the most deadly form of Coronavirus. COVID-19 has a 5% mortality rating, while SARS has 10% and MERS with 50% mortality rate.

But COVID-19 is specifically dangerous because we are able to carry and transmit it, putting everyone around us in danger.

He says the only way we are able to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19 is by social distancing because at this point in time, we have not created the proper means to fight back.

“Vaccines or drugs to control it,” said Doctor Tumban.

“It’s going to be very difficult to go away because some people have it and they don’t even know they have it, they can transmit it, so it may just have other people basically that may have the clinical symptoms or signs, but are carriers of the virus because their immune system is just keeping it in place, but again, they can transmit it to other people.”

Tumban says COVID-19 will never be gone. It may continue to circulate at very low levels in the population and may peak up in winters. Then we’ll have to re-quarantine for 14 days.

Unless our bodies have built up enough antibodies to fight back the COVID-19 virus, as it does when we receive the Influenza vaccine.

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