Elon Answers: Physical therapy can be done online, too

This is part of a series of articles featuring responses by Elon University faculty members to questions about the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) submitted by Alamance County community members.

Should I continue physical therapy and other such outpatient health care at this time?

As physical therapists with over 50 years of experience, we have tremendous appreciation for the ways in which PT helps people move more effectively and with less pain. Right now, however, it is most important to limit opportunities for the spread of COVID-19. Infected persons often do not show symptoms, so the safest action for all of us is to keep our distance from others.

We recommend in-person PT appointments only in very limited circumstances. If you have severe pain, PT can help you avoid the emergency room. PT might also be necessary for post-surgical rehabilitation. Talk to your physical therapist for more information.

The good news is that you can access PT care via telehealth. Movement analysis, functional assessment, personalized instruction, and more can often be performed effectively using simple technology such as a phone or internet connection. This is an important time to stay healthy and active. Go to www.choosept.com for information on PT telehealth and on how to stay active during physical distancing. — Charity Johansson and Mary Kay Hannah

How can scientists develop a vaccine when we still don’t know much about the disease?

Understanding all facets of a disease is not necessary to develop an effective vaccine. To understand who gets sick, how the disease progresses, and who is most vulnerable, researchers need to study hundreds of patients over the entire course of the disease. To get definitive answers, they must study both men and women, old and young, healthy and those with preexisting conditions.

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In contrast, making a vaccine is relatively simple. Once scientists have the genetic sequence of the virus, they can start to design a vaccine. The sequence of the novel coronavirus was first measured in January before most Americans were aware of the emerging pandemic. Hours later scientists were already working on a vaccine.

Ideally a vaccine mimics the virus enough to trigger an immune response, but without causing a person to get sick. Once a candidate vaccine has been developed, several months of clinical trials begin in which scientists test the vaccine for safety and effectiveness. Currently, three vaccines are already in human trials, and more vaccines are being developed. With luck a vaccine will be ready for the public within 12 to 18 months, although it might take longer. — Amanda Chunco

Charity Johansson and Mary Kay Hannah are faculty within the Physical Therapy Education Department at Elon University. Reach them at cjohanss@elon.edu and mhannah3@elon.edu. Amanda Chunco is an associate professor in environmental studies and Japheth E. Rawls Professor at Elon. Reach her at achunco@elon.edu.


To submit a question to our team of scientists, visit tinyurl.com/eloncovid19, email us at eloncovid19@gmail.com, or use social media with hashtag #eloncovid19. Answers will be published as available in the Times-News, at www.thetimesnews.com, and on Today at Elon.