Helen Chu

MPH 2012, Epidemiology

Uncovering COVID-19 in Seattle

Helen is at the heart of Seattle's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her courageous decision to repurpose testing for a local flu study to identify COVID-19 cases in the face of federal and state restrictions may have saved thousands of lives. The flu study lab identified the first known U.S. case of community transmission. Their results ultimately accelerated public health efforts to track the spread of the virus in Seattle and to mitigate the emerging pandemic.

An infectious disease specialist, Helen co-leads the Seattle Flu Study, which had been collecting nasal swabs from Puget Sound area residents with flu-like symptoms for months before the new virus turned up in America. The study has since shifted to focus on COVID-19, specifically expanding an effort to send test kits to homes throughout the city. Helen is also leading various studies to understand the disease and how the body might overcome it, including an assessment of remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19 and a look at ways to prevent transmission among vulnerable groups such as those living without homes.

Affiliations: Associate Professor, Medicine - Allergy and Infectious Disease, University of Washington; Adjunct Associate Professor, Epidemiology, UW School of Public Health; Adjunct Associate Professor, Global Health, UW Schools of Public Health and of Medicine; Attending Physician, Infectious Diseases, Harborview Medical Center, UW Medicine

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