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WSU Research Global Health Security

Global health security

Disease detection, prevention, and response in developing areas

In a village in southeastern Guinea, a 2-year old boy spiked a fever and became gravely ill. He died in a matter of days. Soon his family became sick, then mourners at their funerals, then a health worker and relatives of the sick. It would be 3 months before health officials knew the identity of the deadly disease: Ebola.1 Since the dawn of the 2014 epidemic, the virus has reached 6 countries, crippled fragile economies, and claimed more than 11,000 lives.2

Global health security relies on the ability to quickly recognize and respond to disease outbreaks. The 2014 Ebola crisis underscores how epidemics not only exact a toll public health, but on national economies as well. Fearful of contagion, workers stay home, businesses close, and transportation is disrupted. The impact can ripple around the world.

WSU researchers seek ways to stop outbreaks before they start. They are developing objective, data-driven methods for disease detection and response for use in resource-poor environments. Working across disciplines, scholars identify barriers to halting the spread of disease, be they political, economic, social, behavioral, or cultural. They aim to create disease surveillance and response systems that will be sustainable at all levels of governance. New models under development will serve the global community.

1. “Tracing Ebola’s Breakout to an African 2-Year-Old,” by Denise Grady and Sheri Fink, August 9, 2014, The New York Times

2.“Ebola Situation Reports,” World Health Organization, data up to 19 July, 2015

 Research areas

  • Disease surveillance, monitoring, and associated computational modeling
  • Innovative solutions to infectious disease
  • Health care access in rural and underserved areas
  • Economic, behavioral, social, and cultural influencers of health and economic security
  • Research worldwide to protect America

    Preventing spread of disease in Kenya

    In Kenya, 42 percent1 of the population falls below the poverty line. Lack of health care among the impoverished increases the risk of hard-to-control disease outbreaks. Understanding and preventing infectious disease threats among vulnerable populations in rural and urban settings is important to global health security.

    Kariuki Njenga addresses these challenges using a “One Health” approach, which recognizes that human health is connected to the health of animals and the environment. With a $3.4 million, five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Njenga conducts investigations that aim to combat major health challenges in Kenya, … » More …

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  • Reducing the threat of rabies in Africa

    Experts seek ways to confer protection in nations with scant medical resources

    Canine rabies has been eliminated in developed countries but remains a threat to half the world, including the African nation of Tanzania. The bite from a rabid dog is often deadly to humans living in Africa and Asia, where there is poor access to expensive post-exposure vaccinations.  According to estimates by the World Health Organization, rabies takes the lives of nearly 60,000 people each year, including approximately 1,500 in Tanzania. Almost half of those are children under the age of 15.

    The obvious solution is to vaccinate dogs against the disease, but it … » More …

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Washington State University