Epi Department News

Newman encourages researchers to adapt clinical studies to alleviate impact of pandemic

NEURO NEWS – To minimize disruption and preserve integrity while still ensuring participant health and safety, EPI chair Anne Newman tells JAMA that sustaining ongoing trials could help millions of people realize substantial, durable health benefits that will be important post-pandemic. Therefore, efforts and resources should be dedicated to support continuing randomized trials using creative and thoughtful methods and proactive planning.  

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.  

Mertz of Allegheny County Health Department answers questions about coronavirus preparations (video)

WTAE - “We expect to detect cases in Pennsylvania during the coming weeks,” said Kristen Mertz, medical epidemiologist with the Allegheny County Health Department and adjunct faculty at Pitt Public Health. She’s most concerned about outbreaks at long-term health care facilities as well as other places with a large amount of elderly people because “that population is so vulnerable.”  

O'Neal Summons Satan for Starring Role

PITTWIRE - Pitt Public Health staff member Scott O'Neal recently took center stage to sing the title role in the world premiere of "Satan's Fall," composed by Steward Copeland, founder of the iconic New Wave band The Police. The metal opera, based on "Paradise Lost", was co-commissioned by the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, where O'Neal sings bass as part of the group's professional core. The choir includes Pitt staffers Matt Borkowski (also f... 

King confirms relapse is common for bariatric surgery patients who quit smoking

NEWS-MEDICAL – “Smoking cessation prior to surgery is strongly recommended to reduce surgical complications. But there isn't the same emphasis on maintaining cessation after surgery. Our findings show that there is a need for ongoing support in order to reduce and quickly respond to relapses," says EPI’s Wendy King, lead author of a study published in Annals of Surgery. Just as gastric bypass increases the risk of alcohol use disorder due to cha... 

Thurston on why your hot flashes may put you at risk for heart disease

CAPE COD HEALTH NEWS - Women who reported more persistent hot flashes over the course of the menopausal transition were associated with an 80 percent increased risk for cardiovascular disease events. EPI's Rebecca Thurston, lead investigator on a study of more than 3,000 women for 20 years, called the magnitude of the increased risks “substantial.” She says, “The [hot flashes] are telling us something about the health of women’s cardiovascular s... 

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... 

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