I'm Shannon Bennett, a virologist focused on emerging infectious diseases, here to talk about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. AMA!
I'm a virologist and Chief of Science at the California Academy of Sciences, where I spend a lot of time looking into where viruses that infect humans come from (we call these zoonotics). I use clues in the genomes of viruses about how they mutate and evolve to read their origin stories as well as find their fitness "pressure points," which for humans translates into how they spread and how virulent they are. I've been tracking the emergence and spread of the virus SARS-CoV-2, agent of the disease COVID-19, based on its unique biological features. I really became fascinated with pathogens when I was a college student volunteering in west Africa—in the span of a few weeks I contracted malaria, amoebic dysentery, a staph infection, and was hospitalized in a leper colony. It taught me a new level of respect for my parasite foes, all of whom evolve rapidly, have natural reservoirs, and can cause significant disease. Sound familiar? Here's more about me on this website, and my twitter handle is @MicrobeExplorer.
UPDATE: I have to head out now, but will try to come back later and address some more. Thanks for all the great exchange! Meanwhile, stay healthy and help flatten the curve!