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infectious disease epidemiology

The Biggest Public Health Stories of 2013

2013 was a big year for public health. We were thrust to the forefront again with disease outbreaks, and have had to deal with increased skepticism of the nature of what we do from the public. Meanwhile, within the establishment, rifts have been growing between groups, as different professional organizations vie for power and control. Here are my top five public health stories for 2013, presented in no particular order, but I’d love to hear yours in the comments.

1. Polio in Syria
Polio is a crippling disease that has been covered on the blog before. It’s been almost completely eradicated, but is still endemic to certain parts of the word. However, following civil unrest in Syria, polio has started to spread again and has, to date, crippled 17 children. Before the March 2011 uprising, vaccination rates were estimated to be above 90%. However, since then, estimates for vaccination rates hover around 68% – enough to prevent the benefits of herd immunity from kicking in. In order to increase immunization rates, the UN is trying to mobilize a vaccine drive. However, due to political and safety concerns, they are having a hard time ensuring that all children are vaccinated. To quote NPR:

Polio does not stop at borders or military checkpoints. Without a comprehensive response to stop the virus, aid workers fear that the outbreak could become a public health catastrophe.

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Book Review: Deadly Outbreaks: How Medical Detectives Save Lives Threatened by Killer Pandemics, Exotic Viruses, and Drug-Resistant Parasites

Deadly Outbreaks: How Medical Detectives Save Lives Threatened by Killer Pandemics, Exotic Viruses, and Drug-Resistant Parasites | Click image to go to CSTE website

Anyone who follows my writing knows that I’m a big proponent of using stories to talk about science. We’ve discussed how you can use science fiction teach science, zombies to talk about disease outbreaks, and my TEDx talk discussed using principles of storytelling in how we discuss science. So when I was asked to review (see disclaimer below) Dr Alexandra Levitt’s new book “Deadly Outbreaks: How Medical Detectives Save Lives Threatened by Killer Pandemics, Exotic Viruses and Drug-Resistant Parasites,” I jumped on the opportunity.

The CDC has a program known as the Epidemiologic Intelligence Services, where individuals trained in fields such as epidemiology, medicine, statistics and veterinary sciences come together to identify causes of diseases. For an overview of the EIS, check out this review of “Inside the Outbreaks” by Travis Saunders over at Obesity Panacea. The EIS was set up Alexander Langmuir, who has been profiled on the blog, and their work has been instrumental in learning about, and thus containing, disease outbreaks all over the world. Dr Levitt is well positioned to speak on these issues, having worked at the CDC since 1995, although it should be noted that this was written in her free time, not as part of her position at the CDC.

To continue reading, click here!

APHA Get Ready Day: How preparation can save lives (including your own)

Today, the APHA is encouraging you to be prepared with their annual Get Ready Day! Across the country, people will be preparing for disasters, and encouraging people to consider how they are ready for any disasters that might happen.

The typical image that comes to mind when people think of getting ready for natural disasters is the “Y2K bunker,” where people have months of canned goods, water jugs, and matches, preparing for an apocalypse where we live in a Walking Dead or Mad Max style wasteland, struggling for survival. These individuals may or may not be sporting a beard and wearing camouflage gear in the middle of suburbia.

APHA Get Ready Logo

But that’s not what we’re talking about (although similar principles apply). A disaster could be anything ranging from a fire, a flood, a terrorist attack, or something more localized such as a storm taking out power in your neighbourhood, or a tree falling down on your house. These sorts of events will happen, and being prepared can help you and your family stay safe throughout.

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New Post on PLOS Public Health: Public Health 2.0: Electric Boogaloo

Session: Public E-Health

I love conferences and seminars. Having someone who is passionate about an issue get up and present is one of the best ways to learn about something new, and can really bring something to life. But what’s perhaps most interesting is not how effectively someone can communicate an issue, but it’s in the break immediately afterwards. Do people leave to discuss the topic that was just presented? Do they leave thinking about what you said? In my mind, that’s one mark of a good presenter: they make you think about the issue so deeply that it dominates the conference lunch immediately afterwards.

I had this experience last week. As part of an introductory epidemiology course, the students were allocated to a side and had to “debate” an issue. One of the topics was “Vaccination campaigns can be helped by social media,” with the two teams arguing accordingly. That got me to thinking: How is social media used by public health professionals? And can it be used effectively?

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Interesting reads: MSF Scientific Day Edition!

I’m not going to post my usual collection of links this week. Instead, I’m going to encourage all my readers to check out the MSF Scientific Day. It’s looking to be an interesting event, and the Agenda and posters cover a broad range of topics. They’ve been holding interviews on Twitter with the presenters (#MSFSD), and it’s been well received so far.

I’d strongly recommend participating if you can. You don’t have to watch the whole day (I know I won’t due to meetings and work), but if you have some time to kill, stop by their live stream, ask some questions on Twitter or Facebook and expand your horizons.

You can follow along online on the MSF Facebook page, Twitter @msf_uk or by using the hashtag #MSFSD.

Have a great weekend! And for those of you running in the Ottawa Race Weekend, good luck!!

-Atif

Interview with Margriet Den Boer about Leishmaniasis: MSF Scientific Day May 25th 2012!

So on Monday I spoke a little bit about MSF’s Scientific Day (to be held this Friday, May 25th 2012). Today, I’m welcoming Margriet Den Boer, MSc, PharmD, MPH, to the blog to talk about her experiences in Bangladesh dealing with Leishmaniasis. Margriet completed her PharmD in the Netherlands and obtained a Masters Degree in Public Health in Developing Countries at the London School of Tropical Medicine. The last 10 years Margriet worked with MSF and WHO, in a combination of activities related to leishmaniasis and pharmaceutical matters, including access to drugs. Her focus is to draw more attention to leishmaniasis, and lift it out of its status of neglected disease.

For those who want to learn more about leishmaniasis, @EpiDoctor (Michael Walsh) has a great post on his blog Infection Landscapes.

Remember: You can follow along online on the MSF Facebook page, Twitter @msf_uk or by using the hashtag #MSFSD.

How did you end up with Medecins sans Frontieres? Was this always part of “the plan”?

Yes, I was always hoping to work in humanitarian aid, and especially for Medecins sans Frontieres, even though with my background in pharmacy and pharmacology there are not that many possibilities. I was very lucky as MSF Holland opened up a pharmacist position after I finished my studies. At that time I was the only pharmacist in MSF – now there is a whole network of them.

Continue reading “Interview with Margriet Den Boer about Leishmaniasis: MSF Scientific Day May 25th 2012!”

Interview with Petros Isaakidis about HPV and HIV: MSF Scientific Day May 25th 2012!

So on Monday I spoke a little bit about MSF’s Scientific Day (to be held this Friday, May 25th 2012). Today, I’m welcoming Petros Isaakidis, MD, PhD, to the blog to talk about his experiences in India with HPV. Petros is a medical epidemiologist. He has worked as a clinician for the National Health System in various parts of Greece and as an epidemiologist for the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, in Athens. He was a biological disasters planner during the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, and in-charge of infectious diseases surveillance and outbreak investigations. He has been volunteering and working for humanitarian organizations, mainly Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Zimbabwe, Gaza Strip & West Bank, Kenya, Cambodia, Thailand, Lesotho and India. During this period he coordinated medical projects, especially large scale HIV and TB projects and supported evidence generation through field-based operational research projects.

Remember: You can follow along online on the MSF Facebook page, Twitter @msf_uk or by using the hashtag #MSFSD.

Hi Petros! Welcome to Mr Epidemiology! Why don’t we start with you telling your audience who you are and where you work?

Hi! Thanks for the hospitality! I’m a Medical Epidemiologist (which is only slightly different from a skin doctor…) and I am currently with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Mumbai, India working as Operational Research Focal Person.

Continue reading “Interview with Petros Isaakidis about HPV and HIV: MSF Scientific Day May 25th 2012!”

Interview with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders’ Becky Roby for Scientific Day May 25th 2012!

MSF Scientific Day 2012 Trailer from MSF on Vimeo.

I was recently contacted by Becky Roby, an intern with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders in the UK. The guys over at MSF hold an annual Scientific Day, where public health professionals working for MSF and other organizations come together to discuss their research. There’s an agenda available online for you to check out. Their speakers are in the thick of the action, helping people at the grassroots level.

What piqued my interest though is that they are fully embracing social media for their conference. While I have discussed how you can use Twitter at a conference (along with SciCurious), MSF will be livetweeting the conference. They are streaming it online, and you can ask questions on Twitter that the researcher can address in the post-presentation Q&A period.

You can follow along online on their Facebook page, on Twitter @msf_uk or by using the hashtag #MSFSD.

I’m hoping to have a few interviews up this week with people involved with the Scientific Day, so make sure to check back! Today, I’m welcoming Becky Roby to the blog, who is helping organize the Scientific Day.

Continue reading “Interview with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders’ Becky Roby for Scientific Day May 25th 2012!”

Twitter for Scientists Part 3: To boldly go where no lecturer has gone before

How are scholars using Twitter? Click to enlarge.

So far, I’ve talked about how Twitter can be used by scientists to help disseminate information, and acquire new information. I’m going to change gears in my final post and talk about how Twitter can be used in the classroom, and how it can be used by scientists moving forward.

If you missed them, click here for Part 1 and Part 2 in this series.

Continue reading “Twitter for Scientists Part 3: To boldly go where no lecturer has gone before”

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