Center for Global Health and Diseases and Infectious Disease and Immunology Institute host lecture open to public
Case Western Reserve University, as a global health education leader, will present Ebola expert Daniel Bausch for a special lecture on the unfolding crisis. He will detail his experiences, “From the Front Lines of the Battle with Ebola,” from 2 to 3 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 16, in the Wolstein Research Building Auditorium. The lecture, hosted by the School of Medicine’s Center for Global Health and Diseases and sponsored by the Infectious Diseases and Immunology Institute and School of Medicine, is open to the public. Because of limited seating, CWRU will make the lecture available with a live stream, at tv.case.edu/caselivehd/.
Bausch, who specializes in research and control of emerging tropical viruses, will present a balanced public health perspective about the deadly hemorrhagic fever rampant among tens of thousands in West Africa and affecting a few individuals in the United States.
“What we have playing out now with Ebola in Africa is a major humanitarian disaster, so it is of concern to all of us,” he said. “There are many good reasons for people to get involved. Clinicians and other health volunteers can help with the short-term response by providing care to affected patients and researchers by exploring ways to control infectious diseases more effectively in both the short and long terms.”
Bausch will offer his perspective as a consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO) in responding to Ebola virus disease in West Africa. He is collaborating with WHO and other groups to explore possible use of experimental therapies and vaccines in the response to the ongoing outbreak. He is also contributing to preparedness training for clinicians, both in West Africa and the United States.
Additionally, Bausch works with the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit 6 in Lima, Peru, as director of the Virology and Emerging Infections Department. He also continues an active teaching and scholarly role as associate professor in the Department of Tropical Medicine and Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, at the Tulane University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans. His previous experience includes a stint with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Special Pathogens Branch, combatting pathogens such as the hemorrhagic fever viruses Marburg and Lassa, hantaviruses and SARS coronavirus.
During the lecture, Bausch will raise awareness of global health as a whole, said Brian T. Grimberg, assistant professor of international health, Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, who had worked on emerging infectious diseases with Bausch in Peru. “Ebola draws a lot of attention to the poor state of global health, particularly in regions affected by severe poverty,” Grimberg said. “When you ignore these illnesses, they will come back with vengeance when you are not paying attention to them on a daily basis.”
Bausch’s goal for the lecture is to provide the best blend of information, reassurance and urgent alerts. His “usual rule” for these presentations is to provide the audience the real experience from the ground.
“It’s difficult for people to fully understand what is happening when they hear media sound bites because those tend to focus on the scarier issues,” he said. “We need to put events in the right context and realize who is at risk and who is not. We need to explain the modalities of transmission to combat Ebola in West Africa, as well as keep it from becoming a problem in the United States and elsewhere.”
From his on-the-ground perspective, Bausch calls the Ebola outbreak “a major humanitarian crisis” that is playing out. In addition to providing the latest epidemiologic data, he will address the need for rapid action and effective intervention, despite the enormous challenges. He will discuss the status of strategies by WHO, the United States government and other international partners to adapt to highly fluid circumstances that change weekly, and even daily. As for Ebola in the United States, he views it as “highly unlikely” that a large outbreak of the dangerous infection will occur there.
“While we cannot lose sight of the few Ebola cases in the United States, it pales greatly in comparison to the tens of thousands of cases that already exist in West Africa,” Bausch said. “There is the risk of those numbers going up to a half-million people afflicted by this terrible disease. We need caution in the United States and other regions of the world unaffected by Ebola, but the major public health focus should be a vigorous and comprehensive response in West Africa.”
Key questions commonly arise during Bausch’s lectures: How is Ebola transmitted? What is the potential for mutation of an even more deadly Ebola virus? How can WHO and CDC increase and streamline their responses? What will it take to train more health care workers to treat Ebola?
“I hope Dr. Bausch can address how it’s important to balance the sensationalism with what the real human toll is,” Grimberg said. “To me, the biggest problem is not simply Ebola but the total breakdown in the health care system across West Africa. In fact, right now many more people in the same area of Africa are dying of diarrheal diseases, malaria and other infectious diseases because of the weak health infrastructure that is further stressed by the Ebola epidemic.”
Center for Global Health and Diseases Director James W. Kazura also welcomed the opportunity to hear Bausch’s insights in the Special Lecture.
“Emerging infections, such as Ebola, do not respect international borders, particularly in areas where there is instability and where public health infrastructure is very weak,” Kazura said. “It is those constellation of events that led to the current circumstances in West Africa. There are lessons we all can learn from this outbreak in terms of maintaining public health research and delivery systems throughout the world to control these types of infectious diseases.”