As more places begin to open and Americans seek ways to return to a “new normal,” it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of information (and misinformation) being disseminated. Erin Bromage, a Comparative Immunologist and Professor of Biology (specializing in Immunology) at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, recently posted a blog that went viral. A science-based nonpolitical post, it outlines the risks associated with the spread of COVID-19 and how to avoid them.
In his blog post, he shares where the greatest risks of infection are, how the virus is spread the most, and how asymptotic people contribute to the spread. (As OnFocus editorial staff receives or finds useful, unbiased COVID-19 information, we will plan to share it. Bromage’s post has been featured on several national news platforms this week and we wanted to communicate this information locally. Our goal is to keep everyone informed to the best of our ability.)
“This past semester, I taught a class on Ecology of Infectious Disease to undergraduate students,” Bromage wrote on his blog. “I always like to have a current disease example as a common thread throughout the course. So in January, when I was putting the syllabus for my course together, I saw a pathogen emerging in China and decided to incorporate it. Since early January my students and I have been developing and updating a huge notice board of information outside my laboratory on the new research findings to track the pathogen’s progression.”
As Bromage saw the pathogen going global, he started writing pieces on Facebook for friends because he suspected that the outbreak was going to become significant and would negatively affect daily lives, and he wanted them to be prepared.
“Those friends asked if I could put my writing on a web page so that their non-Facebook friends and relatives could access it,” he explained. “The blog posts, while factual, discuss emerging science on COVID-19 in a colloquial way. They should not be interpreted in any other way. My goal is to make the science accessible to the general public.”
With a background in the epidemiology of, and immunity to, infectious disease in animals, most of his current work focuses on the evolution of the immune system, the immunological mechanisms responsible for protection from infectious disease, and the design and use of vaccines to control infectious disease in animals.
“The content of my courses, however, usually focuses on infection and immunity in humans,” he wrote. “An integral part of my current teaching and research program at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is communicating science with diverse audiences. This integration of research and communication has been supported by grant funding from the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Together with my wonderful colleagues in the Biology Department, we have also developed a graduate course in Science Communication with a whole section on Science Blogs…. time for an update!”
“I am not holding myself out as an expert on this virus or epidemiology and I rely on the amazing scientists publishing and discussing their work for the material and data content of my posts,” he said. “These scientists are the true rock-stars of the response to COVID-19. I just enjoy being able to translate their data and findings into prose that non-scientist lay people can more readily understand as we navigate through this pandemic.”