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The Growing Threat of Infectious Diseases: University of Minnesota School of Public Health Responds

The Ebola outbreak of 2014 killed more than 11,000 people. Zika erupted in 2016 and the World Health Organization designated the virus as an international public health emergency. From its small beginnings, Zika spread rapidly throughout South America and is now reaching into the United States.

Humans, animals, and food move around the world more frequently and more easily than ever before. And with that enhanced mobility comes risk — infectious diseases now spread quickly and are no longer contained to isolated geographical areas.

Qualified people to combat global infectious diseases are needed now more than ever.

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) works hard to reduce the impact of infectious diseases, or stop them all together. It trains people to do crucial work in this field and to understand the factors behind prevention and containment. The fact that public health could save millions of lives each year through immunizations and interventions drives SPH’s work forward.

Meningococcal meningitis is an infectious disease that seriously affects the brain membrane and is fatal 50 percent of the time if untreated. The area with the highest rates of the disease stretches from Senegal east to Ethiopia. In the video below, SPH Division of Environmental Health Sciences PhD student Maria Sundaram explains her work investigating a new vaccine in the African meningitis belt.


As a student in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, you, too, can gain the skills and experience essential for preventing and combatting infectious diseases. You’ll also be learning from the best at the School of Public Health— esteemed faculty will be on hand to guide you through your studies and work alongside you in the ground-breaking research the school conducts.

The University of Minnesota is a leader in the concept of One Health, which addresses the link between the health of people, animals, and the environment. One of its projects is the One Health Workforce (OHW), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and co-led by Professor Jeff Bender in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences.

OHW partners with university networks in Southeast Asia and Eastern and Central Africa to enhance the skills of local talent to effectively and efficiently work across disciplines to prevent, detect, and respond to the threat of infectious diseases around the world.

Professor Bruce Alexander, head of the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, spends time in Vietnam to provide support to the Southeast Asia One Health University Network.

Other faculty members in the division come at infectious diseases from a variety of angles. Associate Professor Claudia Muñoz-Zanzi works to improve our understanding of zoonotic (passed from animals to humans) infections and other emerging infectious diseases, especially in a global context. Her recent research looks at leptospirosis (a bacteria spread through urine) and toxoplasmosis (a parasitic infection) in Chile. Assistant Professor Jon Oliver specializes in the relationship between ticks and emerging tick-borne pathogens relevant to human health and exacerbated by climate change.

The School of Public Health is home to a broad range of nationally and internationally known research centres that provide the absolute best and most relevant research for all courses related to infectious diseases.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), for example, works to prevent illness and death from targeted infectious disease threats through research and the translation of scientific information into real-world solutions. Its Director, Professor Michael Osterholm, is one of the United States’ foremost infectious disease experts. He has worked with the World Economic Forum and the World Health Organisation, and has been showered with awards for his research. His expertise is there for you to tap as a public health student.

The sterling work done by the Minnesota Food Safety Center earned it a place as one of only five Integrated Food Safety Centers of Excellence in 2012, as designated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It works to identify and implement best practices in foodborne illness and infectious disease surveillance and outbreak investigation.

As an international student, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health gives you the practice and knowledge that you can take anywhere in the world and put to excellent use. A Master of Public Health (MPH) degree specializing in Environmental Infectious Diseases or Global Environmental Health takes an international approach to the planet’s major pressing issues and gives you the practical training and academic know-how to best tackle infectious diseases and global environmental health challenges in your home country, as well as in the United States.

The quality of the teaching and the trailblazing research at SPH makes a degree from this school a highly valuable currency in a world where uncertainty is the only certainty.

“Becoming an SPH international student was the best decision I’ve made to foster my career and academic training,” says MPH in Environmental Health student Mercedes. “The talent in the SPH community – faculty, staff and fellow students – is outstanding.”

Interested? Get in touch with the School of Public health here, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn

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