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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Illinois
3225 Vet. Med. Basic Sciences Bldg.
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, IL 61802
February 22, 2013

Release on
Contact: Chris Beuoy

Free Public Forum on Infectious Disease Aims to Answer the Question 'When to Worry'

URBANA - Exactly 10 years ago the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak erupted, infecting more than 8,000 people in 30 countries and killing 774 in just five months. This month, a new coronavirus is grabbing headlines, with at least 13 confirmed cases and seven deaths as of February 22.

How does the risk posed by emerging global viruses such as these stack up against other health risks, such as the annual flu season, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contributes to between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths in the United States every year?

Recognizing the difficulty in evaluating personal health risks, experts from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine have organized a free community forum entitled "Health Risk or Hype: Emerging Diseases You Should Care About."

The forum will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, 2001 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana. It is the second in a series of talks entitled "One Health & You: News You Can Use," offered by the college's Center for One Health Illinois.

Four panelists will give brief presentations covering the relative health risks associated with tick-borne diseases, global health threats, antimicrobial resistance, and more, as well as an assessment of the role of the media in informing the public about emerging disease threats.

  • Dr. Robert Palinkas, University of Illinois McKinley Health Center: International infectious disease threats
  • Dr. Yvette Johnson-Walker, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine: Tularemia, plague, and SARS-like viruses
  • Dr. Christine Hoang, American Veterinary Medical Association: Antimicrobial resistance
  • Dr. John Wirtz, University of Illinois College of Media: How outbreaks are portrayed in the media
The second hour of the evening will be devoted to questions from the audience. "Disease risks may emerge both far away and close to home: tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever in Illinois, Hanta virus at Yellowstone, and SARS-like virus and cholera associated with foreign travel, says panelist Dr. Johnson-Walker, a member of the Center for One Health Illinois.

The important thing is to know what activities put you at risk and to do what you can to reduce your risk. Be alert for signs of illness, and see your doctor early if you get sick. Make sure your physician knows about your exposures, even if you arent asked for that information, she adds.

Other public forums in the series include:
  • The Raw Facts: Food Fads, Fears, Fables and Safety, April 16, Urbana; covering raw diets for people and pets, unpasteurized dairy products, and food safety regulations
  • Of Pugs, Pigs, and Pandas: Animal Welfare at Home, Farm, Lab and Zoo, May 21, Urbana
The April and May sessions will also be repeated at the Brookfield Zoo on the day following the Urbana presentation.

"The purpose of the lecture series is to provide the general public with reliable information and to clear up misconceptions," says Dr. Jack Herrmann, one of the directors of the Center for One Health Illinois and an organizer of the series.

"The series also calls attention to the way human, animal, and environmental health are interrelated," says Dr. Herrmann. "The source of the first SARS outbreak was eventually traced to civet cats that had been slaughtered for their meat. The current coronavirus outbreak appears to be very similar to a virus that infects bats. So its important that veterinarians, physicians, and public health experts work together to detect and prevent emerging infectious disease."

More information is available online at

Organizations co-sponsoring the Urbana series include the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District and several units on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus, including the College of Medicine, the Illinois Natural History Survey, the Global Health Initiative, and McKinley Health Center.

Media sponsorship is provided by the News-Gazette and WDWS.

About the Center for One Health Illinois
The philosophy of "one health" recognizes the interdependence of the health and well-being of the human population, wild and domestic animals, and the natural environment. The Center for One Health Illinois was established at the College of Veterinary Medicine in 2010 as a way to allow the college's expertise in environmental health, conservation medicine, and infectious diseases to inform and improve public policy and public health.

The Center focuses on research, training, and outreach efforts in three related areas:

  • improving preparedness and response to natural and intentional exposures of biological, chemical, and physical agents; ensuring safe and sustainable food production systems
  • understanding disease processes that occur at the interface of human and animal activities and their effects on the environment; and
  • educating health professionals who understand factors for human, animal and ecosystem health, how public health policy is developed, and how it affects the health of all three.
More information can be found at