The novel coronavirus has disrupted business, travel and international education.
Apart from the substantial economic impact, over 3,800 people have died worldwide from the outbreak at the time of writing. Over 110,000 infections have been recorded.
The situation is worse in certain countries. For instance, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the country is on lockdown, the most extreme measure a European nation has taken thus far. There is also a ban on all public events.
As new developments continue to unfold, researchers and scientists are working furiously to understand the virus and to develop a cure.
Public health officials and epidemiologists are emerging as this crisis’s heroes, keeping the public informed about the outbreak’s developments and allowing us to make more informed decisions to protect our health.
How can we be like them? What qualification does it take for us to contribute to future public health crises?
Let’s take a look at some heroes and what they studied at university:
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – World Health Organization Director-General
World Health Organization Director-General (DG) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian, is now a regular feature in news sites since the outbreak became public last December.
According to his curriculum vitae, Dr Tedros has a BSc Biology from Asmara University, a MSc Immunology of Infectious Diseases from the University of London and a PhD in Community Health from the University of Nottingham.
His qualifications are highly relevant to his area of work, with some of his past roles include being the Minister of Health for Ethiopia, in addition to various regional and global roles related to healthcare.
“We are not at the mercy of the #coronavirus. Over the weekend we crossed 100K reported cases in 100 countries. Now that it has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real. But it would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled,” tweeted Dr Tedros.
Dr William Schaffner, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adviser
Dr. William Schaffner has answers to some of the most common coronavirus questions and concerns. pic.twitter.com/O2VKd3JDVn
— Early Today (@NBC_EarlyToday) March 2, 2020
Is the coronavirus an epidemic or a pandemic?
At the time of writing, both WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention haven’t classified the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic.
But there is one man who has confidently labeled it as a pandemic: Dr William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University professor and adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to his profile at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dr Schaffner graduated from Yale in 1957.
He also attended the University of Freiburg, Germany as a Fulbright scholar, graduated from Cornell University Medical College in 1962 and completed residency training and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt.
Marc Lipsitch, Harvard University epidemiologist
“Korea, more than any other country, has had opportunities to understand the full spectrum of severity, because of very extensive testing of individuals exposed in various outbreaks,” Marc Lipsitch, a Harvard epidemiology professor said. #COVID19https://t.co/pLAAZWi02P
— The Korea Herald (@TheKoreaHerald) March 9, 2020
Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch was quoted by The Atlantic saying: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.”
He predicted that some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world would be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 within the coming year.
Despite his rather alarming projection, he clarified that this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses.
According to his profile, Lipsitch has a BA in Philosophy from Yale University and a PhD in Zoology from the University of Oxford. He is also the director for the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.
Individuals like Lipsitch provide the public, as well as governments, with a better context of the magnitude of the virus, which in turn helps them take the necessary precautions or put strategies in place to contain the outbreak.