TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 5, 2020) – A University of South Florida researcher is involved in a new study to determine what caused SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) to rapidly spread across Asia, and then essentially come to a halt there. This work is being funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Rapid Response grant.
Andrew Kramer, a professor of integrative biology at USF, is utilizing his internationally recognized expertise on the Ebola outbreak and applying it to help pinpoint how the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, became a global pandemic. Instead of focusing on how the number of cases varies by location, Kramer is looking at what locations reported cases and when. That will better indicate if an area was impacted by a big city far away or a small province located nearby. He’s concentrating on the early weeks of the pandemic and Asia in particular, as the virus had not yet been influenced by other geographic areas, unlike the United States.
“The number of cases can be a noisy signal. When a pathogen is emerging, the reported number of cases may not say much about what other locations are most at risk,” Kramer said. “And this is especially true early in an outbreak when rapid action can be most effective.”
Kramer is studying the predictability of how COVID-19 spread in China and throughout Southeast Asia. He’s using data on travel restrictions and quarantines to determine what factors facilitated transmission and what slowed it down. The World Health Organization reports the nation has had 90,000 cases of COVID-19 and 4,700 deaths. Cities across China started shutting down in January. It has since come to average fewer than 30 new cases a day, with some large regions, known as prefectures, not reporting cases at all. In comparison, the U.S., which has 25 percent of the population size of China and has primarily remained open, has reported 7 million cases and 205,000 deaths. It continues to report tens of thousands of new cases each day.
This information will help build a framework for predicting where secondary outbreaks may occur and what interventions may alter their trajectory, which can assist government agencies in minimizing risk in real-time.
Kramer is also currently working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Center for Ecology of Infectious Diseases at the University of Georgia to help the Ministry of Public Health in the Democratic Republic of the Congo combat Ebola, its 11th outbreak since the disease was first detected there in 1976. He’s informing the Ministry of Public Health’s decisions on where individuals should be screened, and where treatment centers may soon be needed.
About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at www.usf.edu.