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NC professor who served as an advisor during H1N1 pandemic discusses COVID-19 response

N.C. State professor Julie Swann, Ph.D. (ABC7 photo){ }{p}{/p}
N.C. State professor Julie Swann, Ph.D. (ABC7 photo)

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7 On Your Side has been speaking with doctors and experts to give the public a better understanding of what is occurring with the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, ABC7 News spoke with N.C. State professor Julie Swann, Ph.D. about the response to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2009, Swann worked as a science advisor for the H1N1 pandemic response at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and discussed the lessons she learned during that time and if those experiences are relevant today to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Swann told ABC7 one of the things she remembers during the H1N1 response was the importance of having the necessary supplies like masks and other items that could be delivered to hospitals and providers that need them. And she believes health care professionals having the resources to fight the coronavirus is important.

With shortages of supplies as a result of the coronavirus, ABC7’s Michelle Marsh asked Swann if we learned lessons from the H1N1 pandemic.

“It’s really hard to be able to respond to an event that might be once in 100 years, I certainly think we could be doing better, but I know that there are a lot of companies and organizations ramping up to get these supplies in place as soon as possible so we can especially protect health care workers and their patients," says Swann.

A timetable for a vaccine to fight the coronavirus is unknown at this time and there are likely challenges that could happen when distributing the vaccine in the United States. But Swann tells ABC7 the vaccine needs to be delivered quickly and officials need to ensure that there is broad access to a vaccine that many people in the population can obtain.

Health care workers worldwide are doing what they can to help fight the coronavirus while saving lives with limited resources, but the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have exposed holes in the nation’s health care system, and the professor believes more testing is needed in the United States for the coronavirus.

“I would really like to see if possible for us to have a better sense of exactly who has COVID-19 and even roll out tests to determine who has already had the disease as they may have some immunity for a period of time. Both of those will allow us to better target interventions community by community.”

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Swann adds “If we can find a way to delay the spread of the disease even a few weeks, that will help us to be better able to utilize testing to its fullest capability and we are seeing that companies are developing tests that would allow us to know if someone already had the disease and that will be a game-changer. In addition to that, I don’t expect COVID-19 to go away in a small number of weeks, we might find that it continues to circulate over a longer period like H1N1 does and so that’s another reason it’s so important to get these tests up and running.”

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