Second Annual Great Plains Emerging Infectious Diseases Conference

For those of you in the general vicinity, the University of Iowa Department of Epidemiology will be once again sponsoring the Great Plains Emerging Infectious Diseases Conference on April 19-20 in Iowa City. This year’s keynote speaker will be Dr. Peter Daszak, President of the EcoHealth Alliance:

Dr. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, is a leader in the field of conservation medicine and a respected disease ecologist. EcoHealth Alliance is a global organization dedicated to innovative conservation science linking ecology and the health of humans and wildlife. EcoHealth Alliance’s mission is to provide scientists and educators with support for grassroots conservation efforts in 20 high-biodiversity countries in North America, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

As Executive Vice President of Health at EcoHealth Alliance, Dr. Daszak directed a program of collaborative research, education, and conservation policy. The program examined the role of wildlife trade in disease introduction; the emergence of novel zoonotic viruses lethal to humans such as Nipah, Hendra, SARS, and Avian Influenza; the role of diseases in the global decline of amphibian populations; and the ecology and impact of West Nile virus in the U.S. Dr. Daszak holds adjunct positions at three U.S. and two U.K. universities and serves on the National Research Council’s committee on the future of veterinary research in the U.S.

Like last year, we will also be having breakout sessions in an “unconference” format–loosely moderated by discussion leaders. If you’re thinking of attending the conference and would like to suggest or lead a session, please leave a comment or drop me a line (tara dash smith at uiowa dot edu). Looking forward to seeing some readers here in April!

Great Plains Emerging Infectious Diseases Conference–Registration Open

I mentioned last month that we are planning an Emerging Diseases conference here in April. Things are moving quickly and registration is now open (here). Abstract submission is also up and running here.

The details:

Oral and poster presentation research abstracts are due by 5:00pm on March 23, 2012. Individuals may submit up to two research abstracts. Abstracts must not exceed 250 words in length. There are a limited number of spots available for those interested in providing a 15-minute oral presentation. Abstracts submitted for oral presentations that are not selected for a talk will automatically be considered for the poster session. Please do not submit an abstract if your attendance is questionable. Confirmation of participation must be received no later than April 1, 2012.

Monetary awards will be conferred upon the top three student presentations (oral or poster).

Authors will be notified of the review committee’s decision by April 2, 2012.

If you have any questions regarding the conference, registration, or abstract submission, drop me a line or visit the conference website. We’re also still accepting ideas for breakout sessions in an unconference format, so feel free to contact me about thoughts for those as well. Hope to see some of you there!

Great Plains Emerging Diseases Conference

I mentioned earlier in the week that I had two pending announcements; now I can officially share the second. We’re putting on an Emerging Infectious Diseases conference here in Iowa City April 27-8th, and the Keynote speaker will be Ian Lipkin, a world leader in the field of viral discovery and most recently, a consultant for the Stephen Soderbergh movie “Contagion.”

For the conference itself, it will be a regular research conference in one sense (abstract submission, poster presentations), but much of it will be done in “unconference” format a la ScienceOnline. We’re working on finishing the website etc. and that will be available soon, but in the meantime, I’d love it if those in the area could assist with word-of-mouth via this “save the date” flyer. If you have any interest in helping out, suggesting session topics, or any general questions, feel free to pose them below. Looking forward to seeing some of you here in Iowa!

Measles in Iowa

We’ve had pertussis and mumps, so it was only a matter of time.

State health officials declared a “public health emergency” Tuesday after a test confirmed a case of measles in an unvaccinated Dallas County baby who apparently picked up the disease in India.

They said people who might have been exposed included passengers on an Americans Airline flight from Chicago to Des Moines May 11 and people who were at Mercy Medical Center or a Mercy pediatric clinic in downtown Des Moines May 14.

Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, medical director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said many Americans falsely recall measles as a benign childhood illness. “I get asked by medical students, ‘Which disease are you most afraid of?’ And they expect me to say Ebola or SARS or something like that – but, it’s measles,” she said. “I don’t think people understand how bad it can be, how many people can get seriously ill and, unfortunately, how many people can die from this disease. It’s bad and it’s probably the most spreadable disease we have in our society.”

***

Dr. Asha Madia, a Mercy pediatrician, said the patient is an 8-month-old boy who had a fever, a rash and a mild eye infection. He has recovered. She said the boy was not vaccinated because such vaccinations generally are not given before age 1. But she said his family believes in vaccinations and had immunized the boy’s older sibling.

So this is unique in that the index case isn’t from a family who has eschewed vaccination (unlike this case in 2004), but in a child who was unvaccinated nevertheless due to his age. This is one reason the CDC just last month recommended the MMR vaccine in infants who would be traveling abroad, even if they are below the traditionally recommended age.

Story still developing, but for now it appears that this is the only case recognized. However, as Maryn recently pointed out, *any* measles outbreak isn’t cheap, due to the diligent surveillance that must be undertaken to make sure no one else comes down with the infection. Full information available here from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Iowa investigating two “probable” swine flu cases

It was only a matter of time:

Iowa Gov. Chet Culver says the state has two probable causes of swine flu.

Speaking Wednesday at a Statehouse news conference, Culver told reporters that officials would know Thursday if the cases are swine flu.

Officials say one case was from a California resident who visited Scott and Clinton counties last week. The other was a woman who returned from Mexico and traveled through Johnson, Des Moines and Muscatine counties.

State Medical Director Patricia Quinlisk says both of the people infected were now recovering.

Should know by tomorrow if they are confirmed or not.

Anti-evolution bill in Iowa

I am so incredibly tardy with this information that Arizonian John Lynch and the lovely folks at Uncommon Descent have already blogged this, but recently an “academic freedom” bill was introduced in Iowa. For those who may be unfamiliar, in addition to “teach the controversy,” these “academic freedom” bills are one of the new tactics for creationists who want to introduce creationism into science classrooms via the back door by claiming that teachers need the protection to teach “the full range of scientific views” when it comes to evolution (in other words, to teach creationism/ID). The bill states that:
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