Travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines are working in Wisconsin, according to research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

That was just one of the insights on COVID-19 from UW-Madison expert Thomas Friedrich, professor of pathobiological sciences in the School of Veterinary Medicine.

A renowned expert on evolution, immunity, and pathogenesis of pandemic viruses, Friedrich is currently working with teams of scientists from 30 institutions around the world to collaborate on COVID-19 research. Dr. Friedrich was a recent guest on UW Now Livestream, hosted by the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association.

He and his team at UW–Madison are tracking how the novel coronavirus changes slightly as it moves from person to person. This can reveal information about how the virus ended up in Wisconsin and how it spread.

Looking at thousands of samples of the virus Friedrich and others see that the outbreak in the Milwaukee area differs from the outbreak in and around Madison. It appears that most cases of the virus in Dane County came from various parts of Europe, whereas the Milwaukee County cases are from Asia.

“This suggests to us that there’s been some success in the travel restrictions that we’re still under,” said Friedrich, because it means that the virus was not being passed from person-to-person between the two regions.

Dr. Friedrick also shared the following information:

• There is still no effective treatment for COVID-19. There’s promising early data on several approaches, but much more testing is needed before we know the effectiveness of each treatment.

• More than 80 vaccines are being produced and tested. While many are promising, it may be months if not more than a year before there is an effective preventive approach. Coronavirus does not undergo significant changes quickly, so when an effective vaccine is developed it should be effective from season to season, unlike the common flu which mutates frequently.

• People exposed to COVID-19 may develop varied levels of immunity to future infection, for an unknown duration of time.

You can watch the entire UW Now Livestream here:

The Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association plans to host The UW Now Livestream weekly, featuring UW–Madison faculty and staff with unique expertise.

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