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UNMC specialists prepare for future pandemics

(WJRT)
Published: Nov. 25, 2020 at 6:19 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - 260,000 Americans have died since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Numbers continue to rise, and experts are focused on getting this pandemic under control. Other researchers though are looking to what could be next.

Now, they are working to prevent the next large-scale global pandemic.

UNMC is now part of a 100-million-dollar grant that will help researchers be able to identify an infectious disease and stop it from spreading globally.

Researchers here will be working closely with 10 countries mostly in Africa and Asia.

" If we’ve been talking to this country for one year, two years, three years four years about how they have to look for potential dangers and if they think one is there. What do we actually do if we think something is happening,” said Dr. David Brett- Major.

Most infectious diseases originate from animals. In fact, 70% of emerging infectious diseases are a result of cross-contamination between animals and humans. Including COVID-19, which experts say may have come from a bat.

“We have to keep thinking about the way elements of risk get managed by both animal and human health partners, how that communication happens and how that translates to our recognizing of an individual that’s sick, recognizing a disease event and trying to stop its growth,” said Brett.

UNMC researchers will play a vital role in providing technical advice to those 10 countries. That means figuring out how to manage a pandemic level threat.

“Over time, diseases get changed in ways that allow them to continue to circulate in whatever animal, plant, person or group that it likes to circulate in,” said Brett,

Once the five years are complete—the goal is to make sure all the nations involved can handle stopping the spread on their own.

“The purpose of the program is that the country would ideally have developed its capabilities enough that it recognizes the threat itself and takes the action necessary to keep it from spreading,” said Brett.

UNMC will partner with national and international organizations during the research project.

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