Tampa scientist says a faster test for COVID-19 is needed

There are numerous medical professionals all over the world working to understand and treat the coronavirus. One of them lives in the Bay Area. 

A noted physician and scientist, Dr. Jean-Francois Rossignol has been on the front lines of some of the deadliest outbreaks in the world. As a chemist, microbiologist and infectious diseases physician, he’s been speaking directly with the Department of Health and Human Services about vaccines, treatments and preventative measures. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday it is widening its guidelines, allowing any American who has symptoms to get tested. Meanwhile, the White House says more test kits are coming, but infectious disease specialists say supply isn't meeting demand and doctors do not have the ability to test everybody. 

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Rossignol said one thing that is needed is a faster test – one that can give results in just hours. Currently, he said he has clinical studies going on all over the world.

“Why are we making a big deal about this coronavirus?  Number one: because it is unknown,” Rossignol said. “This is the real truth.  We don't know what it is.”

Rossignol has spent his career studying things like coronavirus.  He has helped invent drugs to fight them. His biggest concern about this one is how contagious it is.  

“It is extraordinarily contagious,” he said. “I have been in the field dealing with malaria, cholera...never seen something behave like that.”

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That said, Dr. Rossignol believes the majority that get coronavirus will not be severely ill. He said most may experience sore throats, coughing and runny noses. He does worry about a small segment of the population, however, those with suppressed immune systems and the elderly.

As for a vaccine and treatment, Rossignol believes it will take time.  

“I think it's wrong to explain to people, you will have a treatment tomorrow,” he said. “This is not going to happen tomorrow.”

County officials are our local health departments continue to stress that the risk is higher for flu activity so practice good hygiene.

If you feel sick

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.