Virologist and Niles native, Dr. Benjaman Neuman took part in a 21 news 6:40 special where he answered viewer questions live on Facebook.

Dr. Neuman is also a professor and chair of biological sciences at Texas A&M University and served on the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses Coronavirus Study group which aided in naming the current strand of coronavirus, COVID-19.


Being in the house constantly and sanitizing everything, is that having a negative effect on your immune system?

"Any of these cleaning products that you breathe in could damage your lungs a little bit but what they are not going to do is bring down your immune system. These products might cause an inflammatory response and this virus would trigger a very big inflammatory response that would not make things better."

Why is there so much conflicting information about how long coronavirus lingers on different kinds of surfaces?

"There are different ways to look at it. You could be looking at 'How long until half of the virus is gone?' or the rate in which it declines. Anyone that is quoting those kinds of statistics is in fact quoting one of those things but it depends on the particular study, so that's where you get those discrepancies on how long it can last on surfaces. The virus does not do well in the air or if there is any ultraviolet sunlight. The virus does pretty well if you keep it in the freezer but that's about it."

Where do you stand on the origin of this virus?

"I have worked with one guy in the Wuhan lab and we have helped each other work on virus projects there. It is a natural virus. There are many many similar viruses in bats in Chian and East Africa. These viruses also seem to be able to grow in people and in a world with so many of these factors its amazing they haven't popped up more. This will not be the last one and is something we are going to have to get much better at dealing with."

Is it better to open everything up so we can build up our immunity to this?

"No. We do not know a lot about immunity to this virus. With every virus, the safest route is to wait until you have all the results and then you start doing stuff. We are running real-world experiments outside labs by opening up, and this worries me."

Why does a vaccine take so long when we have all this advanced technology?

"Technology seems really advanced when you are outside the lab. When you are inside the lab all you have is a problem that you don't know the answer to. We have seven different types of human coronavirus and don't have a vaccine for any of them."

What are your thoughts on antibody testing?

"The FDA has a website of all the ones they have given special emergency use authorization for. To get that you have to show that you are near as good as the 'official' antibody test. The thing is though, you only start to develop these antibodies until about two weeks after you have the virus. There is also no asymptomatic carrier test."