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USF Health virologist Dr. Michael Teng answers your COVID-19 questions

Every week we are taking your COVID-19 questions to a local medical expert to talk about what’s going on.

On 10 Tampa Bay, we’re committed to keeping you up to date with all the latest COVID-19 news.

That’s why every week we are taking your questions to a local medical expert to talk about what’s going on. From the latest on where Tampa Bay stands with vaccines, to monitoring the COVID-19 variants, we’ll continue tracking information.

Dr. Michael Teng, Ph.D., is a virologist at USF Health.

Here are some of the questions we asked this week:

Q: If you and your family have been vaccinated, is it safe to gather?

A: Dr. Teng says if everyone is vaccinated there's a lower risk of interaction, and the vaccine is very effective at preventing severe disease. He does add that you can still take steps like limiting time in close contact with others and wearing masks.

 “iI is still a transmissible virus. The vaccine is 95% effective, generally but there’s still 5%, right? You don’t want to have to worry about it, if we’re not part of the bigger group.”

Q: What can we learn from the UK vaccine trials where they’re infecting volunteers with COVID-19? 

A: Dr. Teng says in normal trials, you don’t know if, or when someone will be exposed or infected with the virus you're doing the vaccine trial for. 

"With the human challenge trial, you can actually know who's going to get infected and when they're going to get infected and then you can actually design more experiments around that so you can look at their antibody levels in their blood. You can look at their white cell response to the virus. You can do a lot more careful evaluation of vaccines or even looking at disease progression."

Q: We’re in a pandemic but will COVID-19 become endemic, and what does that mean?

 A: “A pandemic is basically global spread of a virus in people who haven't seen it before. After this initial round of pandemic, when we have all these people who are susceptible to the virus, a lot of the time the virus stays with us but then circulates at kind of low levels, so that's kind of endemic. We have seasonal coronaviruses that cause the common cold, these are what we consider endemic coronaviruses. They're constantly being transmitted within our population but the disease that they cause isn't this huge thing." 

As for COVID-19, Dr. Teng says it’s still too early to know how the virus will look in the future. It could go away like the SARS-1 virus, or it could be like a cold, circulating at lower levels. It could also be like the flu where it changes every year, and so we change the vaccine with it.

You can send your questions to 727-577-8522 and we might answer them on 10 Tampa Bay Brightside.