Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
Alison Galvani, PhD
Post-doctoral research fellow at UC Berkeley's Department of Integrative Biology
Expertise: Epidemiology; spread of viral diseases and how viruses evolve to evade human immunity.
Galvani says the rapid spread
of SARS indicates the potential for an epidemic reminiscent
of the Spanish flu pandemic in
1918. "Though SARS has a low mortality rate, it seems
to have a high rate of secondary infections, which is what
really determines how damaging a pathogen will be," she
says. "People should remember that the Spanish influenza
in 1918 had a similar mortality rate but a high rate of secondary
infections, and it killed 20 million people."
She notes, too, that the Spanish influenza pandemic occurred when mobility was much more restricted and the world's population was about half that of today. On the other hand, she says, current public health measures are much better than they were 85 years ago.
"The size of the epidemic will depend on how effective control efforts are," she adds.
Galvani was co-author of a paper
that appeared recently in the journal Nature about the evolution
of the influenza virus
and how human immunity determines the diversity of the virus.
Phone: (510) 204-9112
Arthur Reingold, MD
Professor and head of the Division of Epidemiology at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health
Expertise: Reingold heads the California Emerging Infections Program, a joint program with state and local health departments, and is the principal investigator for the CDC grant funding the Center for Infectious Disease Preparedness based at UC Berkeley. Reingold can talk about all aspects of infectious diseases: health risks, challenges of detecting outbreaks, and safety precautions.
Reingold notes that SARS is believed to be a variant of a coronavirus, a group of viruses that spreads easily from person to person. He therefore recommends the same precautions used to avoid catching a flu or cold, such as frequent hand washing.
He says the steps taken by health officials in the United
States to limit the spread of SARS - including the dissemination
of information to the general public - has been appropriate.
Phone: (510) 642-0327
Lee W. Riley, MD
Professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health
Expertise: Field epidemiology and international health; molecular mechanisms of drug-resistant pathogens.
He can discuss the common means of transmission for the SARS virus, "a new variant on an old pathogen," he says. This includes airborne transmission and direct contact with an infected person.
Riley says public health officials in the
United States are doing the best they can to contain the
spread of SARS, and
that people should not panic. He says that SARS may be spreading
more rapidly in Asia because of the crowded living conditions
in many urban centers there.
Phone: (510) 642-9200
Ira Tager, MD
Professor of epidemiology
Expertise: The effects of air pollution on health; asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease; air quality aboard commercial planes.
Tager was a member, along with UC Berkeley Professor William
Nazaroff, of the National Academy of Sciences' Committee
on Air Quality in Passenger Cabins of Commercial Aircraft.
The committee released a report in December 2001 calling
for the Federal Aviation Administration to monitor the air
quality on commercial aircraft and to re-evaluate its regulations
on cabin air quality.
Phone: (510) 642-3997 or (510) 642-9533