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Harvard Global Health Institute Hosts Outbreak Week

Kerri Sands, Contributing Writer

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Outbreak Week, a week-long public event hosted by Harvard Global Health Institute, took place from September 24-28, 2018. Throughout the course of the week, various panels, discussions, and lectures were held to provoke awareness about rising pandemics around the globe.

On September 24th, a lecture given by Michele Barry, MD, Senior Associate Dean of Global Health and professor of medicine at Stanford University, provoked conversation about rising worldwide pandemics. During this lecture, Dr. Barry emphasized the fact that epidemics occur due to the rise of crises, like a civil war. Civil wars cause the collapse of infrastructure in a given society, which leads to a lack of healthcare resources.

They also lead to the migration of civilians who end up having to pack tightly together in small areas, which is commonly how disease spreads. Nations with civil war have a lack of immunizations, a lack of biosurveillance of animal illnesses, and disruption to health education, which can lead to the spread of disease due to insufficient conditions.

An example of this that Dr. Barry discussed was the influenza outbreak of 1918, otherwise known as the “Mother of All Pandemics,” due to the immense amount of deaths that occurred as a result. Alleged to have started in Spain, this pandemic spread as a result of the close quarters and unhygienic conditions of army camps during World War II. In the spring of 1918, the first wave of influenza killed roughly 675,000 Americans, and wiped out many others in countries like Spain.

The first wave of influenza killed roughly 675,000 Americans.”

The second wave of this outbreak started at a U.S Army Training Camp in Boston and killed more than 100,000 Americans in the month of October alone. In addition, Dr. Barry discussed the factors that lead to the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis. This international crisis occurred in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, along with other nations. She emphasized how the collapse of infrastructure lead to limited healthcare for civilians, which prompted the outbreak to grow out of control. This outbreak also contained the first documentation of Ebola being sexually transmitted.

After discussing the history of past pandemics, Dr. Barry dove into modern-day epidemics. In China, the H7N9 strain of influenza (also known as the “Asian Lineage Avian Influenza”) poses a large threat, as 39% of people in Asia who have contracted H7N9 have died. It has been determined that this virus is caused by exposure to infected poultry.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the H7N9 influenza virus has great potential to spread around the world.

The other major pandemic that Dr. Barry highlighted is the current microbial resistance crisis. Due to the fact that antibiotics are often overused, and many times misused, antibiotic-resistant bacteria have developed. Since the field of medicine has become dependant on the usage of antibiotics for bacterial infections, bacteria are able to mutate in a way where they are immune to the antibiotics given. These bacteria are multiplying and spreading, leading to untreatable bacterial infections and a deadly pandemic.

Although the thought of rising pandemics is frightening, there are solutions that shine a ray of light. These include stewardship programs for antibiotics to attempt to combat the global antibiotic crisis. Also, strengthening legitimacy in the government will allow for a stronger healthcare system to be put in place during rising epidemics. Providing incentives for reporting these epidemics and ramifications for silence are also effective solutions.

Many epidemics in nations are kept in the dark, which means that providing incentives to report infections will prevent the epidemic from becoming a global pandemic. Lastly, enforcing regulations on vaccinations is essential and creating strategies to ensure vaccinations are giving during times of conflict. Dr. Barry suggested the idea of negotiated “time outs” to vaccinate civilians.

Despite the fact that these illnesses pose a threat, it’s essential to show support for these solutions to help combat the potential progression of these rising epidemics.


This piece also appears in our October 2018 print edition.

About the Writer
Kerri Sands, Contributing Writer

What elementary school did you go to?

Graham & Parks

What other activities are you involved in at CRLS and/or in the community?

Girls Hockey,...

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Harvard Global Health Institute Hosts Outbreak Week