Conference to Address Challenges of Avian Flu Pandemic

Posted: November 14, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

In response to an ever-increasing threat of an avian flu pandemic, the university is teaming up with health officials to hold a preparedness conference on Friday, Nov. 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Mason Hall Edwin Meese III Conference Room.

Organizers – Mason’s Center for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (CAPEC), Department of Global and Community Health and Department of Health Administration and Policy – aim to examine global health threats and explore the challenges of preparedness. Specialists, practitioners and students are encouraged to attend. Admission is free.

“We felt it was important to do something involving health policy,” says John Paden, Clarence Robinson Professor of International Studies and co-director of CAPEC. “We want to examine current health issues, make sure people are educated on this topic and understand it as a real health threat.”

Avian influenza – commonly known as bird flu – refers to a large group of different viruses that primarily affect birds. Of the hundreds of strains of avian influenza viruses, only four are known to have caused human infections. So far, there have been only isolated reports of human-to-human transmission of the virus. Close contact with infected poultry is the primary source for human infection.

The avian flu has been found in an increasing number of countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. Experts say the large Asian immigrant population and frequent flow of people between the Washington, D.C., area and Asia put Northern Virginia at risk.

“We aim to ‘connect the dots’ between people at George Mason, and show how health policy is linked to international issues,” explains Paden. “We will have many experts present, including some from Hong Kong, to connect us with an Asian perspective.”

Those scheduled to participate in the conference include representatives from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the Fairfax County Health Department, as well as George Mason health and public policy experts.

“This is also a way of showcasing the College of Health and Human Services as Mason adapts to a more global perspective,” Paden says.

The conference will be divided into three panel discussions: Threats of Infectious Disease Pandemics from 10:20 a.m. to noon; Global Health Policies and Socio-Economic Factors from 1:30 to 3 p.m.; and Current States of Preparedness from 3:15 to 4:45 p.m.

“This is a great opportunity to bring people together to educate them on what the U.S. is doing to prevent such pandemics,” says Cheryl Choy, associate director for CAPEC.

“There have been many deaths in Asia, but it is not just a threat for Asian countries. It is definitely a concern for the U.S. as well. We don’t want to say, ‘We don’t know what hit us.’”

RSVP to to receive a free lunch box. For more conference information, see the conference program.

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