Epi Faculty News

The History and Future of COVID-19

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COVID-19 is one of three novel coronavirus outbreaks in the past 20 years that originated in animals. How is the current outbreak similar and different from the previous ones? What course will COVID-19 take in Pennsylvania?  IDM's  Amy Hartman  puts the current outbreak in perspective with what we know (and don’t know) about SARS-CoV-2. EPI's  Donald Burke  discusses the epidemiological and environmental factors that will shape the likely ph... 

Miljkovic on the obesity puzzle: Why the disease defies efforts to control it

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PITTSBURGH QUARTERLY - “It’s a disease with many risk factors that not many people know about. It’s not just about a person not exercising,” said EPI's Iva Miljkovic. “People can have a normal BMI, but they have a lot of fat where it’s not supposed to be and we don’t do anything about it in clinical practice. When you go to the doctor ... no one measures your waist. That would be the most simple way to tell if someone was at high risk.”  

Burke explains the need for Pa. to set benchmarks for testing, contact tracing

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THE DAILY ITEM – EPI’s Don Burke said the challenge for public health officials in setting benchmarks is that it’s still not well understood what percentage of the population shows no symptoms when they’re infected with the coronavirus. How widely the population should be tested is key. “We are just beginning to get a clear view of the magnitude of the spread,” Burke said.  

Hidden outbreaks spread through U.S. cities far earlier than we knew

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NEW YORK TIMES - EPI’s Donald Burke said, “Even with these corrections, it’s still on the high side — this is higher than I would have expected.” He added that, whatever the precise scale of the initial outbreak, that same dynamic will accelerate once measures to mitigate the spread are relaxed without other public health measures in place. “When you take away social distancing, everything will go right through the roof.”  

Using 'probable' COVID-19 cases and deaths in data helps response, says Haggerty

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POST-GAZETTE - By counting probable cases and deaths, not just confirmed ones, “the overall sensitivity of the surveillance system is enhanced,” said EPI’s Catherine Haggerty. She interviews people who have had contact with COVID-19 patients to determine if they should be considered probable cases. “By casting a wider net you catch more cases. And it gives us a greater understanding of the full impact” of the disease on the community.  

Contact tracing: Medical detectives like Haggerty could help open economy

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PITTSBURGH BUSINESS TIMES – While high numbers have made state-level contact tracing impossible, Allegheny County has managed it by bringing in Pitt health science students and faculty to assist, including EPI’s Catherine Haggerty. “We identify potentially exposed persons within the community so that we can reduce community spread,” she said. “I think that’s played a role in the success of managing and combatting COVID-19” in the region.  

Haggerty on driving the open roads in a pandemic

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - “A good first step is to check the CDC website before you travel because things are rapidly changing,” advised EPI’s Catherine Haggerty. “There is evidence that the virus can be viable for hours or days on surfaces, so wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you wipe down the steering wheel, it is just an extra precaution that can help protect you.”  

Van Panhuis explains the importance of epidemiology during the current coronavirus pandemic

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PBS NEWSHOUR - EPI’s Wilbert Van Panhuis tells California high school student reporter Madi Marks how he's collecting data on the coronavirus to combat it's spread. He talks about his personal transition from working with sick individuals in past epidemics to improving health conditions for whole populations. His work with big-data disease modeling allows his team to better plan and respond to emergency situations like the current pandemic.  

Mendez interviews Dornsife faculty on health equity and COVID-19 in the U.S. and Brazil (video)

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EPI's Dara Mendez is health equity editor for Block Chronicles, a national web-series and online magazine profiling educators, artists, researchers, and community organizations on Latinx studies, urban education, health equity, and arts and culture. In this video, she interviews Sharelle Barber, scholar-activist and faculty member at the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health. "This is not really a surprise to those of us who study r... 

Burke says scarcity of coronavirus testing, lack of infection data will hamper efforts to reopen parts of the state

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HARRISBURG PATRIOT-NEWS – EPI’s Donald Burke said the lack of testing among low-risk groups means there’s very little data about what percentage of the public is infected but without symptoms. Without reliable data on infections, it will be difficult to make informed decisions about when and how to scale back social distancing, and, later, when to ramp it up again for a second wave in the fall/winter. Increased testing needs to be in place by su... 

‘It’s very sad’: Black Americans facing higher rates of COVID-19 infections (video)

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WTAE - On Tuesday, local group 1Hood hosted a virtual town hall called “What Black Pittsburgh Needs to Know About COVID-19.” Panelist Tiffany Gary-Webb, an epidemiologist at Pitt Public Health, said it’s important to have data broken down by race and zip code. “If we know that certain communities are being hit harder, we can get resources specifically to those areas.”  

Newman finds daily aspirin does not lower Alzheimer’s risk

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NEW YORK TIMES - “If you’re 70 or older and healthy, without evidence of cardiovascular disease, it’s very difficult to improve on your success. The relatively low risk of dementia in this study was not further lowered with aspirin,” said Anne Newman, study co-author. Nor did they find an effect in various subgroups either—people with hypertension or diabetes, smokers, people with high cholesterol, or those who were overweight or obese.  

Newman encourages researchers to adapt clinical studies to alleviate impact of pandemic

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NEURO NEWS – To minimize disruption and preserve integrity while still ensuring participant health and safety, EPI chair Anne Newman tells JAMA that sustaining ongoing trials could help millions of people realize substantial, durable health benefits that will be important post-pandemic. Therefore, efforts and resources should be dedicated to support continuing randomized trials using creative and thoughtful methods and proactive planning.  

What is epidemiology? Kuller explains.

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LIVE SCIENCE – Epidemiologists are disease detectives who save lives by studying and preventing the spread of the worst diseases. EPI’s professor emeritus Lewis Kuller was asked to clarify: “Epidemiology is a tool to understand the distribution of disease in populations, and the factors that lead to higher or lower rates of disease and ways of effectively preventing disease.”  

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