|Alma mater||University of Toronto (BS, MSc, MD)|
|Known for||Pandemic response|
|Institutions|| Sinai Health System |
Dalla Lana School of Public Health
Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute
Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology at the University of Toronto
Allison McGeer(born 1953) is a Canadian infectious disease specialist in the Sinai Health System, and a Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto. She also appointed at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and a Senior Clinician Scientist at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. McGeer has led investigations into the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in Toronto and worked alongside Donald Low. During the COVID-19 pandemic, McGeer has studied how SARS-CoV-2 survives in the air.
In 1974, McGeer earned a B.Sc. in biochemistry from the University of Toronto.She earned a master's degree and then an M.D. in 1982. She trained in internal medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Toronto. From 1989 to 1990, McGeer was a clinical fellow in hospital epidemiology at Yale New Haven Hospital.
In 1989, McGeer joined the Sinai Health System, where she specialised in microbiology.She holds a joint position as Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and of Infectious Diseases at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
At the University of Toronto she focussed on developing mechanisms to stop the spread of infectious diseases in hospitals and care homes.McGeer has studied the impact of influenza on hospital staff. She encouraged people of all ages to receive the universal flu vaccine and supported hospitals in improving their influenza testing.
She is the director of infection control, and works as a microbiologist and infectious disease consultant at the Mount Sinai Hospital.
McGeer studies the prevention and management of bacterial and viral infections.Her primary areas of research interest are the prevention of healthcare associated infection, the epidemiology of influenza, and adult immunization.
McGeer led the investigations into Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Toronto.She was based at the Ontario SARS emergency operation centre. At the time, she contracted the disease, and accidentally exposed several other health officials to the disease. The health officials were quarantined and did not develop the disease. The basic reproduction number of severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (SARS-CoV) was between 2.2 and 3.7, but super-spreading events (highly efficient transmission of the virus) occurred in some hospital settings. McGeer believes that Toronto eliminated SARS by isolating people who were suffering or at risk from the virus, preventing its spread. A study the critical care units of Toronto's hospitals found that the consistent use of N95 masks was an effective way to protect nurses. During the 2013 MERS outbreak, McGeer visited Saudi Arabia with the World Health Organization to help to track the spread of the virus. Through careful monitoring of the air, food and water supply, McGeer helped to control the spread of the virus.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic McGeer provided health advice to the Canadian public.In late January 2020, McGeer expressed concerns over the ability to contain SARS-CoV-2, particularly the unknown incubation period, which makes it difficult to track and quarantine people who have been exposed. In early March she emphasised the need for Canadians to follow public health advice to prevent the widespread transmission of SARS-CoV-2. According to McGeer the most important guidance was to limit social contact and stay at home when feeling unwell.
In March 2020, McGeer started to investigate how long SARS-CoV-2 can survive in air.She was interested in how exhaled droplets, which contain both water and the virus, may become an infective aerosol that is light enough to be transported by air currents. Caroline Duchaine, an aerosol specialist at the Université Laval, thinks that the virus may not be as potent in aerosol form, losing parts of its spiky protein shell as it dries out in the air. McGeer and Duchaine are interested in how the virus survives in air in a hospital setting, particularly around patients who are being intubated. She hopes her research will provide insight as to whether face masks should be worn to reduce the transmission of the virus. At the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were considering whether to advise members of the public to wear masks when they left the house, and they had been made mandatory in the Czech Republic.
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Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory disease of zoonotic origin caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, the first identified strain of the SARS coronavirus species severe acute respiratory syndrome–related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV). The first known cases occurred in November 2002, and the syndrome caused the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak. Around late 2017, Chinese scientists traced the virus through the intermediary of Asian palm civets to cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in Xiyang Yi Ethnic Township, Yunnan.
Coronaviruses are a group of related RNA viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans and birds, they cause respiratory tract infections that can range from mild to lethal. Mild illnesses in humans include some cases of the common cold, while more lethal varieties can cause SARS, MERS and COVID-19, which is causing an ongoing pandemic. In cows and pigs they cause diarrhea, while in mice they cause hepatitis and encephalomyelitis.
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