U of M leading the way to prevent pandemics

SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The University of Minnesota (U of M) is leading a new $50 million effort to train a people around the world to prevent pandemics.

It's called the One Health Workforce.

Ebola is a good example of why such a work force is needed. For decades, smaller outbreaks have been quickly contained with proper protocol, but the recent outbreak in West Africa turned into a pandemic.

According to John Deen, one of the One Health Workforce project leads, and a professor of Veterinary Epidemiology at the U of M, "We need a One Health Workforce that accounts for the different aspects of diseases spreading and in turn being controlled."

What makes this effort unique is that it is not only doctors, nurses and public health workers who will be trained but also veterinarians, all working together to address emerging infectious diseases.

Said Deen, "Most of these diseases spread from animals to small human populations, usually in rural areas, and then become big concerns as they spread through urban areas."

According to Deen, 75% of infectious diseases being addressed right now in the world exist in both in humans and animals. Ebola, SARS, Avian and Swine Flu are all examples.

So with the funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) the U of M is working with Tufts University and universities in central and eastern africa and southeast asia to write curriculum and train veterinarians and health care workers there.

"When they see a disease, whether it be in human populations or animal populations, communicating quickly between those two makes a much stronger response," said Deen.

The One Health Workforce will be developed over the next five years.


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