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New COVID-19 study tracks the virus in real time on UW-Madison campus

The study tests a growing group of university employees every week, even if they are not showing symptoms.
Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 6:28 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A new COVID-19 study out of UW-Madison is working to understand the state of the virus on campus, by testing a growing group of volunteers every week.

The study is led by Jonathan Temte, a professor and dean in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. Temte and his team test people even when they do not show any symptoms. The team hopes by focusing on asymptomatic people, they can prevent more infections.

Cecilia He, a research assistant with Temte’s team, said she spends a couple of hours every week collecting nasal swabs from volunteers on campus.

“I’ve always been interested in learning about disease development,” He explained.

He has a masters in public health—as a research assistant, He now gets to study the pandemic through the new study.

The study aims to get a real-time snapshot of the sate of COVID-19 on campus, by regularly testing a growing group of university employees.

“It really gives us some more insight on what could be circulating,” He explained.

One of three collection sites set up for a University of Wisconsin-Madison COVID-19 study. The study, led by Jon Temte,...

Posted by Sanika Bhargaw NBC15 on Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Participants just have to get tested once a week at one of three testing sites the study sets up on campus. All they have to do is take a nasal swab and drop off the sample. Participants are only contacted if they test positive.

“They wanted to help control the spread and I thought absolutely, this is a small thing I can do to help my community,” said participant Caite Artz, who joined the study in September.

Artz said she works one-on-one with people in her job at the university, and the regular testing gives her some relief.

“I wanted to make sure that I’m being safe with those I’m working with,” she explained.

The study is currently testing 650 volunteers. He said when they started about three months ago, they only had 50.

Artz and the other volunteers get tested weekly, even if they feel fine.

“Most of the participants we see are primarily non-symptomatic,” He explained.

He said studies have shown asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people can spread the virus, and the team leading the study wants to find them early.

“Monitoring participants kind of ongoing, before they develop those symptoms, I think will be really important in preventing future infections,” He said.

The study is only open to UW-Madison employees, but researchers are still recruiting volunteers. They plan to continue testing through June 2021.

If you are interested in participating, email uwsisp@mailplus.wisc.edu.

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