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Vaccine Work Continues at Pitt Public Health

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Peter Salk (standing, at left) recently welcomed Dean Donald Burke and Director of Development Kristen de Paor to visit the historic archives and warehoused materials of his father, world-famous public health pioneer Jonas Salk.

As Pitt Public Health looks forward to the centennial of Jonas Salk’s birth in 2014, the school continues its tradition of world-class contributions to research in disease prevention. Pitt Public Health is home to the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory. Led by Director John Grefenstette and Dean Donald Burke, the effort builds life-like computer simulations of the transmission of communicable infectious diseases, such as influenza, tuberculosis, and dengue.

The Public Health Dynamics Laboratory has joined the fight for the global eradication of polio. “Polio transmission rates have been greatly reduced to only a few hundred cases per year worldwide,” explains Willem van Panhuis, assistant professor of epidemiology. “Computational modeling is increasingly necessary to support decision making on polio eradication strategies.” A research group including van Panhuis, Burke, and Grefenstette is working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to obtain new sources of data and to use computational modeling to evaluate potential eradication strategies before they are used in real-world settings.

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