UGA’s College of Public Health to host forum on H1N1 and seasonal influenza viruses

UGA's College of Public Health to host a community forum on the H1N1 and seasonal influenza viruses

Athens, Ga. – The symptoms of the influenza can seem to be insignificant to many. Some individuals may not think twice about going to work with a head ache, muscle aches, or a cough, but there is nothing insignificant about the flu. In the United States alone, 36,000 people die from influenza-related complications each year.

The current H1N1 virus outbreak is a reminder of how quickly influenza mutates and how easily new strains of the virus emerge.

In an effort to engage the Athens community as a partner in prevention, the College of Public Health is hosting a community forum regarding the current flu pandemic, the upcoming seasonal flu season, vaccination, and tips to stay healthy. The forum will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 in room 175 at the University of Georgia’s Paul D. Coverdell Center for Biomedical Health Sciences.

The forum will be led by two physicians, a veterinarian epidemiologist and members of UGA’s Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Dr. Christopher C. Whalen, a professor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health, is a physician who is board certified in infectious diseases and internal medicine. He is also a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and can provide information on preventing illness and current treatment methods. “People should recognize the signs and symptoms of influenza like illness – that would be fever plus respiratory symptoms such as coughing and sore throat,” Whalen said, “and they should seek advice from their physician if they develop those symptoms.”

Dr. Steven R. Valeika is an infectious disease epidemiologist and veterinarian in the College of Public Health who studies the transmission of diseases that affect animal and human populations. He is especially interested in the processes that allow an infection to jump from animals to humans, as has happened with the new strain of Influenza A H1N1, or “swine flu.” Dr. Valeika is a co-author on two recent articles about avian influenza.

Dr. Claude Burnett, a preventative medicine physician, is the Northeast Georgia District Health Director and adjunct faculty in the College of Public Health. As District Health Director, Dr. Burnett oversees and manages the operational plans for the entire health district which includes Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Jackson Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe and Walton Counties.

After a brief overview of the H1N1 and seasonal influenza viruses, the expert panel will field questions from the audience. The panel discussion will be moderated by John Newton, one of UGA’s Emergency Operations Coordinators.

The forum is free and open to the public.