Epi Faculty News

What is epidemiology? Kuller explains.

LIVE SCIENCE – Epidemiologists are disease detectives who save lives by studying and preventing the spread of the worst diseases. EPI’s professor emeritus Lewis Kuller was asked to clarify: “Epidemiology is a tool to understand the distribution of disease in populations, and the factors that lead to higher or lower rates of disease and ways of effectively preventing disease.”  

Van Panhuis turns rapid Coronavirus data sharing into sustainable research infrastructure

Many of the 300 MIDAS members are conducting modeling research on COVID-19 and are contributing to an extraordinary international collection of data and information regarding the outbreak. “It’s exciting and gratifying to be able to do something useful to help with this pandemic,” said EPI's Wilbert van Panhuis. “We’re playing a crucial role in bringing the infectious disease modeling research community together to efficiently share information.... 

Burke on how contagious the new coronavirus is compared to flu and SARS

NEWSWEEK - Donald Burke, professor of health science and policy, said he was concerned that the reproduction number (RO) may be higher than originally estimated. The U.S. case count has been increasing exponentially. If the time between successive cases in the chain of transmission is four days, then the RO would have to be 3 to 4 to sustain this rate. “But the case count is confounded because case testing and reporting are increasing, and that ... 

Burke on what we can learn about coronavirus from National Geographic author David Quammen’s brilliant book ‘Spillover’

THE HILL - Epidemiologist Donald Burke emphasized the need to improve the scientific basis to improve readiness: the understanding of which virus groups to watch, the field capabilities to detect spillovers in remote places before they become regional outbreaks, the organizational capacities to control outbreaks before they become pandemics, plus the laboratory tools and skills to recognize known viruses speedily, to characterize new viruses alm... 

Burke responds: Can you get coronavirus twice?

NEWSWEEK - Experts said that they can’t be certain, based on the limited data there is on SARS-CoV-2 (the germ which causes COVID-19 and shouldn’t be confused with the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus). Donald Burke, professor of health science and policy, said he wasn’t sure, but as SARS-CoV-2 has the same kind of error correction molecular machinery as the virus that causes SARS, “its mutation rate will be slower.”  

King says many smokers quit before weight-loss surgery but start up again afterward

NEW YORK TIMES - "Those who smoked more recently, younger adults, patients with low income, and patients who were married were more likely to smoke post-surgery, which may help with targeted smoking-cessation maintenance efforts," said EPI’s Wendy King, lead study author. "Smoking increases risk of short-term postoperative complications, such as wound complications, respiratory complications, and sepsis."  

Burke concerned that true number of U.S. coronavirus cases is far above official tally

LOS ANGELES TIMES - Donald S. Burke, an EPI disease modeler, says that assumptions about the coronavirus’ ability to jump from person to person is especially conservative. The analysis assumed that each infected person will pass the virus along to 2.1 to 2.5 others over the course of their infection. But estimates for where it is spreading undetected has ranged between 5 and 6, so researchers may have greatly underestimated infections.  

McTigue finds gastric bypass boasts greater benefit for diabetics than sleeve gastrectomy

MD MAGAZINE - Led by EPI’s Kathleen Mctigue, investigators studied 9710 diabetes patients to determine how outcomes differed between the two procedures. Results revealed patients who underwent RYGB experienced significantly greater weight loss at 1 and 5 years when compared to those who underwent SG.  This study, “Comparing the 5-Year Diabetes Outcomes of Sleeve Gastrectomy and Gastric Bypass,” is published in JAMA Surgery.  

Samargandy and El Khoudary find that running can help aging women at increased risk of heart disease

RUNNER’S WORLD – New research adds to growing evidence that the menopause transition is a critical stage for the acceleration of cardiovascular disease risk, according to lead author and epidemiology doctoral student Saad Samargandy. Senior author and associate epidemiology professor Samar El Khoudary says these shifts may be related to hormonal changes affecting arteries and veins that carry blood throughout the body, but exercise can be crucia... 

Mertz joins Pitt experts to dispel myths about Coronavirus

KDKA – During the information session, Kristen Mertz, assistant professor of epidemiology and medical epidemiologist at the Allegheny County Health Department, highlighted more aggressive measures currently in place to prevent spreading the disease. “Those are really the travel ban for foreign nationals so they are not coming to the U.S. and restrictions on U.S. citizens and residents who have been overseas,” Mertz said.  

El Khoudary discovers women at greater risk of CV disease around menopause

MEDICAL DIALOGUES - “Midlife is not just a period where women have hot flashes and experience other menopausal symptoms, it’s a time when their cardiovascular disease risk is increasing as we see significant changes in multiple clinical measures of their physical health,” said EPI's Samar R. El Khoudary. “Our study is not able to tell us why we’re seeing these changes … but we can say, right now, that women should be made aware that their cardio... 

Newman on why Ruth Bader Ginsburg Maintains Busy Public Life

U.S. NEWS - It's reasonable for Ginsburg's fans to wonder if she should be taking it easy if her goal is to outlast the current administration? EPI's Anne Newman says, "She's definitely from the use-it-or-lose-it school," adding that research evidence suggests that “periods of rest, stopping, or temporarily slowing down make it a lot harder to gear up. So it's a lot better to keep going."  

Mendez on addressing Pittsburgh's public health crisis: racism

90.5 WESA - The report brought attention to issues that already existed, says EPI's Dara Mendez. She made recommendations to Pittsburgh City Council at a hearing earlier this month about how to frame legislation passed Tuesday. To address these inequalities correctly, Mendez says that the women who are currently working on racism as a public health crisis need to be centered in the reporting of the issues and in finding the solutions. She adds t... 

Mendez addresses contributing factors to the racial inequalities in pregnancy, birth, and women's health

NEW PITTSBURGH COURIER - The CDC also found that about 3 out of 5 pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths are preventable. The work of Dara Mendez examines how the environment, policies, and systems affect pregnancy outcomes. "If we’re trying to center the experiences of the most marginalized, then they also need to be at the forefront of research." Practitioners, researchers, community members and organizers need to review the data and understa... 

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