Pandemic threat topic of free Café Sci presentation |
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Shirley McMarlin
Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, will discuss the threat of pandemics on Aug. 6 at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.

The role of infectious diseases in shaping human history will be the topic of an Aug. 6 talk at the Carnegie Science Center.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security , will discuss the continual threat of pandemics from a historical perspective during the free Cafe Sci event from 7 to 9 p.m. in the center on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

Adalja will talk about recent outbreaks of Ebola, SARS and MERS, and how they compare and contrast to historical outbreaks of plague and smallpox. The aim of the talk is to develop an understanding of what traits and characteristics are required for certain microorganisms to cause global pandemics, according to a release.

The program also will include time for informal discussion.

“The biggest pandemic threat the U.S. faces, in my analysis, is from a virus spread through the respiratory route,” Adalja says. “Influenza ranks high on the list because of how prolific its spread is and its unique genetic characteristics; however, other viruses with similar characteristics are also threats that often fall under the radar.

“The world has become a very small place where individuals can basically travel anywhere in the world within 24 hours. The rapidity of travel facilitates the spread of many potential pandemic pathogens, as does the growth of megacities around the world,” he says.

“While the U.S. has a very sophisticated medical system, the fact that last year’s flu season — which was more harsh than usual but not a pandemic — was severely disruptive and inundated hospitals argues that the U.S., like the rest of the world, is highly vulnerable to the threat of pandemics,” he adds.

Adalja is board certified in internal medicine, emergency medicine, infectious diseases and critical care medicine. He serves on Pittsburgh’s HIV Commission and on the advisory group of AIDS Free Pittsburgh. He is also a current member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s (IDSA) Diagnostics Committee and its Precision Medicine working group, and serves as a media spokesperson.

He has served on United States government panels tasked with developing guidelines for the treatment of botulism and anthrax in mass casualty settings and the system of care for infectious disease emergencies, and as an external adviser to New York City Health and Hospital Emergency Management Highly Infectious Disease training program. He has been published in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Infectious Diseases, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Emerging Infectious Diseases and Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Doors will open at 6 p.m., when food and cash bar will be available.

Café Sci is presented by PPG and sponsored by Green Mountain Energy.

Registration: 412-237-3400 or

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter @shirley_trib.

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