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Release: Sept. 5, 2002

Ebola outbreak investigator to deliver UI public health preparedness lecture

Ebola hemorrhagic fever is one of the most virulent -- and feared -- known viral diseases, causing death in 50 to 90 percent of all clinically ill cases. When a suspected outbreak occurs, affected countries often call in health experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) to help control and track the highly contagious disease.

On Sept. 10, Ray R. Arthur, Ph.D., a virologist and epidemiologist for the WHO Department of Communicable Diseases Surveillance and Response, will present "Responding to Ebola Outbreaks: The International Collaboration of the World Health Organization's Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network." The free lecture will be held from noon to 1 p.m. in the Raymond R. Rembolt Conference Room, Center for Disabilities and Development (formerly University Hospital School) on the University of Iowa campus.

"We are very fortunate that Dr. Arthur has agreed to visit with us in Iowa City," said Gregory Gray, Ph.D., UI professor of epidemiology. "He is an outstanding communicator and, due to his very unique experiences, he is very much in demand as a speaker. If you saw the movie "Outbreak," one might say that Dustin Hoffman played a similar outbreak investigator role."

The presentation is part of the Grand Rounds series sponsored by the Iowa Center for Public Health Preparedness (ICPHP), based in the UI College of Public Health. Advanced registration for the lecture is requested and may be completed online at

Arthur regularly leads WHO field outbreak investigations, including numerous Ebola and Rift Valley Fever outbreaks in Africa. In his presentation, Arthur will discuss recent Ebola epidemics in Central Africa, their clinical presentation and epidemiology and WHO control measures.

Although infrequent, Ebola outbreaks are severe and are characterized by the sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, limited kidney and liver functions, and both internal and external bleeding. The virus spreads directly through close contact with infected people or their body fluids, or indirectly through contact with objects contaminated with infected body fluids, such as syringes and needles. No specific treatment or vaccine exists for Ebola. Because they can be spread through close contact, viral hemorrhagic fever viruses are high on the list of possible agents of bioterrorism.

The public health Grand Rounds series is sponsored by the ICPHP and the Iowa Association of Local Public Health Agencies. The ICPHP is funded by a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through a cooperative agreement with the Association of Schools of Public Health. For more information about the Grand Rounds series, contact Shari Heick at (319) 335-6994.