ABC4 Exclusive: Tracking the coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus Updates

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (ABC4 News) – In an exclusive report, ABC4 News learned how the Utah Public Health Lab is tracking the COVID-19 virus and using cutting edge technology to help slow its spread.

ABC4’s Brittany Johnson took a tour of the laboratory with Kelly Oakeson, the Chief Scientist for Next Generation Sequencing and Bioinformatics. Oakeson is tasked with slowing the deadly march of the coronavirus. In essence, his job is to help get things back to normal as soon as possible.

“If we know who you’ve been in contact with and where the virus is spreading to, we can intervene at a public health level and stop that spread,” Oakeson explained.

Before the pandemic, Oakeson’s team was responsible for tracking food borne illnesses. Now his team detects and tracks the spread of the virus in Utah.

With cutting edge technology, the team of scientists are able to mitigate outbreaks, slow the spread of COVID-19, and help with a possible cure.

“We can definitely help stop the spread. We actually know what that viral genome is, so it can help with therapies and it can help with a vaccine development.”

In just 30 hours, Oakenson’s team will know everything they need to about the virus in someone’s sample.

“We take the viral DNA or RNA, and it gets bound to one of these little microscope slides,” Oakeson explained during a demonstration.

The state run lab is leading the way in the fight against the global pandemic.

“We’re actually part of a big nationwide international effort that the CDC is putting on to actually take all this viral DNA and make it open to all researchers around the world, all the public health around the world, so we actually can be one big unified front,” said Oakeson.

Working around the clock has been grueling and mentally exhausting work, but Oakeson and the team of scientists at the Utah Public Health Lab, do the work because they know it’s making a difference.

“It’s what keeps me going and what keeps me motivated, is that we really are helping people.”

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