As a virologist, University of Maine microbiology professor Melissa Maginnis has spent her career studying exactly how viruses actually get into the human body — how they bind to cells and then cause various reactions, often health problems.
As mom to 9-year-old Daphne and 4-year-old Phoebe, she and her husband, fellow virologist Aaron Derdowski, have suddenly found themselves, alongside other parents in Bangor, and throughout Maine, taking on the additional jobs of homeschool teachers this week.
Maginnis, a Pennsylvania native who started at UMaine in 2014 after finishing her postdoctoral research fellowship at Brown University in Rhode Island, said she wasn’t surprised at all to see COVID-19 arise in China in December 2019.
“We’ve seen the emergence of several of these viruses in the past couple decades, like SARS and MERS,” said Maginnis, referring to the 2003 and 2012 epidemics, respectively. “It was predicted there would be another one that would emerge, and that it would transmit into humans. I wasn’t surprised.”
What did surprise her was how well this coronavirus spreads from human to human.
“Those other viruses, they were fairly well contained and then they fizzled,” said Maginnis. “But in this case, the transmission rate is pretty high. It’s not as high as measles, which is one of the most transmissible viruses we know of. It’s not unlike the rate that the flu has, but coronavirus is higher than that, and it’s much more deadly than the flu, and it shouldn’t be compared to it.”
Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.
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