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Ask Dr. Universe COVID-19

Dear Dr. Universe: I heard a little bit about how COVID-19 started, but I don’t know much about it. What happened?  - Colleen, 10, Louisa, VA 

It turns out scientists around the world are investigating this very question. It’s likely the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, started in an animal before jumping to humans. But exactly how it all happened is still a kind of mystery.      That’s what I found out from my friend Michael Letko, a researcher at Washington State University who studies viruses and how they cross different species. Read More ...

How does exercise help us? What is the best exercise?

When we exercise, it helps the body and mind in so many different ways. One important muscle that benefits from exercise is the heart. Maybe you’ve felt your heart beat harder and faster when you run or climb at the playground. As the heart gets stronger, it also gets better at pumping blood around the body. That’s really important because your blood is full of oxygen you need to help fuel all your body’s systems. That’s what I found out from my friend Chris Connolly, an associate professor at Washington State University who knows a lot about the science of exercise. Read More ...

Dr. Universe: With the coronavirus why is it effective to wear a mask? How does it make life safer? - Marin, age 12, in Ohio

Dear Marin, Whenever I go out and about, I make sure to wear my face mask. Like you, I wanted to find out exactly how they work. First, I talked to Marian Wilson, an assistant professor and nurse at Washington State University who is curious about how face masks protect people. “When we talk, sneeze, sing, or laugh, we spread droplets into the air all the time,” she said. “With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, we know people may have virus in their droplets.” Read More ...

How are vaccines made? - Sibagh, 7, New York City, NY

It might seem strange, but a small piece of something dangerous can protect you against something much more dangerous. This idea has been around for a long time—and it works. To learn more, I talked to Guy Palmer at Washington State University. As a scientist who studies infectious disease, Palmer likes learning about how to protect both human and animal health. Vaccines are one way to accomplish this. Read More ...

How do viruses form? Since the coronavirus has been all over the news, I've been wondering this question for a long time. - Samantha, 12, N.C.

Dear Samantha,

Viruses are strange things. They’re not alive like you or me. But they behave somewhat that way—spreading, growing, appearing in new forms. How can this be?

There’s a lot scientists don’t know yet about the new coronavirus. But they do know a lot about how viruses work and make people sick.

To learn more, I talked to Sylvia Omulo, a scientist specializing in infectious diseases at Washington State University.

Read More ...

How To Properly Wear A Face Mask

Hey cool cats. I’m Dr. Universe. Whenever I go out and about, I make sure to wear my face mask. One way that germs enter the body is through the nose and mouth. The mouth and nose are interconnected. That’s why it’s so important that my face mask covers them both. I clean my hands before and after handling the mask and to avoid exposure to germs, I don’t want to touch the front of the mask. When I take off the mask, I use the loops or ties. When worn properly, this little piece of fabric can help make a big difference. We can all do our part to stay safe and healthy.

How To Properly Wash Your Hands

Hey cool cats, I’m Dr. Universe. When I come home from exploring, I always wash my hands. It takes about 20 seconds. I use soap and water. To keep track of time, I sing my ABCs. It’s important to wash the hands between the fingers and under the nails, anywhere germs might be hiding. I also wash up before making food, eating, using the bathroom, or touching my ears, nose, or mouth, places where germs can enter the body. With a little soap, water, and maybe even a song, we can all do our part to stay safe and healthy.

What does social distancing mean?

Hey cool cats, I’m Dr. Universe. When I run errands or explore the outdoors, I make sure to practice social distancing. That means keeping at least six feet of distance between me and others who do not live in my house. How wide is six feet? The length of a female lion, The wingspan of a bald eagle, or about three cats. It’s important to social distance because germs can spread from person-to-person. That’s why I like to give my neighbors plenty of space on the sidewalk and in the grocery store aisle. We can all do our part to stay safe and healthy.