Skip to main content
The Student Insider

COVID-19 live Q&A with LSHTM


LSHTM experts Professor Heidi Larson and Professor Jimmy Whitworth answered a range of questions on COVID-19 in a live broadcast Q&A session.

Screenshot from COVID-19 live Q&A with LSHTM

On Wednesday 25 March, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine hosted a live Q&A on the coronavirus pandemic with two of LSHTM’s leading experts in the field: Professor Heidi Larson and Professor Jimmy Whitworth.

Questions posed to the experts included ‘Can you be reinfected with COVID-19?’, ‘How do factors like dementia and diabetes play into a person’s risk of contracting COVID-19?’ and ‘What is the science behind treating COVID-19 with anti-malarial drugs?’.

One of the key questions that was raised during the Q&A related to whether COVID-19 was airborne and whether it can linger in dust. Professor Whitworth replied: 

“There have been some studies which have been done and have reported recently which are looking at this. It looks as though the main mode of transmission is through droplet spread or on to contaminated surfaces which people then touch, and then they put their hands to their mouths or their eyes and get infected that way. That seems to be the main way in which it spreads. And there’s evidence suggesting that from contaminated surfaces, the virus can survive on some forms of contaminated surfaces for several days, actually. So this whole question about cleaning surfaces, using hand gel, or washing your hands frequently is really, really important to stop yourself from getting infected.”

In her final summing up, Professor Larson commented on the importance of using reliable sources for information about COVID-19:

“I would urge people to be really careful about believing what they read until it has some basis to it. There are a lot of things circulating that are not true – or are possibilities – that we have to be careful about. Please read them with caution. WHO, CDC, National Health institutes – look at institutional sites that have confirmed scientific evidence.”

About the speakers

Professor Heidi Larson is a Professor of Anthropology, Risk and Decision Science in the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at LSHTM. She is a leading anthropologist who is currently monitoring myths and misinformation about the outbreak, and advising on interventions to tackle this. Dr Larson previously headed Global Immunisation Communication at UNICEF, chaired GAVI’s Advocacy Task Force, and served on the WHO SAGE Working Group on vaccine hesitancy.

Dr Larson’s research focuses on the analysis of social and political factors that can affect uptake of health interventions and influence policies. Her particular interest is on risk and rumour management from clinical trials to delivery – and building public trust.  She served on the FDA Medical Countermeasure (MCM) Emergency Communication Expert Working Group, and is Principle Investigator of the EU-funded (EBODAC) project on the deployment, acceptance and compliance of an Ebola vaccine trial in Sierra Leone.

Jimmy Whitworth is a Professor of International Public Health at LSHTM. He was previously Head of International Activities (2004-2013) and Population Health (2013-2015) at the Wellcome Trust where he was responsible for strategy, policy and developing the scientific portfolio for research on population science and public health research in the UK and in low and middle income countries.

Jimmy is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for WHO's R&D Blueprint for Action to Prevent Epidemics, a committee member of the Global Co-ordination Mechanism for R&D, a Trustee for the Royal Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and DTM&H examiner for the Royal College of Physicians. He chairs the Scientific Advisory Group for Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) and is chair of the Ebola Biobank Governance Group for Public Health England.

You can hear more on the science behind COVID-19 and the global response to the coronavirus pandemic in the LSHTM Viral podcast