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Wayne State University hosts The Coming Pandemic: A Conference for Business and Health Professionals to explore implications of global avian influenza outbreak

September 25, 2007
Threat continues to spur local companies, organizations to invest substantial resources into disaster preparedness

Conference held as winter flu season kicks off


As the annual flu season approaches, there is another more serious threat to public health in the U.S. and internationally. The danger of a pandemic developing from the H5N1 avian influenza virus, or “bird flu,” has loomed for some time, according to global public health experts. Since 2003, the number of human H5N1 cases has been increasing in Asia, Europe and Africa, and more than half the people infected have died. No sustained human-to-human transmission has occurred so far, but most health professionals anticipate H5N1 may develop and spread in this way.

The Coming Pandemic: A Conference for Business and Health Professionals, hosted by Wayne State University on Oct. 5, 2007, assembles a world-class group of thought leaders and experts who will provide cutting-edge information and practical guidance for what many epidemiologists say is an inevitable bird flu pandemic. Timing of the conference coincides with the traditional beginning of the winter flu season; common strains of influenza – which are cousins to bird flu -- account for the deaths of nearly 40,000 Americans each year. Estimates of human mortality during an avian influenza pandemic vary widely, but many predict it will reach into the millions.

“As a major university with thousands of students, faculty and staff, we are obligated to prepare for the possibility of a pandemic reaching our campus,” said Wayne State University President Dr. Irvin D. Reid. “Our first concern is for the well-being and safety of everyone at the university, and we have planned accordingly. This conference assembles nationally-recognized experts from across the country. We hope to assist people in a variety of influential professions to understand what a pandemic might mean to them and the communities they serve, and to give them basic tools for planning to meet the threat.”

Dr. Lauren Barton, chief of staff for Medical Operations at Chrysler Corporation; Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group; Dr. David Siegel, senior medical director of Health Services Operations and Programs at General Motors Corporation; Lorine M. Spencer, public affairs specialist and community outreach liaison for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other experts will explore the characteristics of pandemic influenza, examining its medical and social implications and possible ways to minimize its effect on business, the economy and everyday life.

A Wayne State University panel of experts will round out the conference discussing medical containment and effective communication in the heat of crisis. The panel includes Allen Batteau, associate professor of Anthropology; Matthew Seeger, department chair, Communication; Mark Upfal, MD, associate professor of Emergency Medicine; and Suzanne White, MD, the Dayanandun Professor and Chair of Emergency Medicine and Specialist-In-Chief, Detroit Medical Center. For more information on the Wayne State faculty experts, go to www.pandemic.wayne.edu.

The Coming Pandemic: A Conference for Business and Health Professionals takes place on Friday, Oct. 5 from 8 a.m. until noon at the Gordon H. Scott Hall of Basic Medical Sciences, 540 E. Canfield St. on the campus of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, in Detroit.

Anyone interested in this important subject, including physicians, physician assistants, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, students, public health practitioners and members of the business community are encouraged to attend. The registration fee is $40 per person; free to Wayne State University students and residents. To register online, visit www.pandemic.wayne.edu.

Wayne State University is a premier institution of higher education offering more than 350 academic programs through 11 schools and colleges to nearly 33,000 students.
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