Reuel A. Stallones Building in the Texas Medical Center in Houston
At six campuses across Texas, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health works to improve the state of public health in Texas every day. Each of our campuses is strategically placed to meet the public health education and research needs of the diverse populations across Texas. UTHealth School of Public Health is the only school of public health in the nation with regional campuses.
The main campus, located in the heart of Houston’s Texas Medical Center, offers students unmatched opportunities for research and employment. The School of Public Health’s five regional campuses are in Austin, Brownville, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio. Each campus has its own faculty and research specialties. Students can attend class at any of the six campuses via Interactive Television (ITV).
UTHealth School of Public Health is one of six schools of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), the most comprehensive academic health system in The University of Texas System and the U.S. Gulf Coast region. In addition to the School of Public Health, UTHealth is home to schools of biomedical informatics, biomedical sciences, dentistry, medicine and nursing. It also includes a psychiatric hospital, multiple institutes and centers, a growing network of clinics and outreach programs in education and care throughout the region.
The School of Public Health is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) and the university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
UTHealth School of Public Health Holds Coronavirus Expert Panel
In response to increasing concerns of 2019-nCoV (coronavirus), public health experts from regional counties, the state and UTHealth School of Public Health gathered on Wednesday, February 5, to discuss what is known, unknown and what to anticipate about this new strain of coronavirus.
“There is a lot of unfolding information,” said Dr. Umair Shah, Executive Director of Harris County Public Health, “It is important to remember that what we know today is going to be very different from what we know a week from now; a month from now.”
The CDC reports that the virus was initially identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in late 2019 and is believed to have been linked to a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, suggesting zoonotic origin. Since its original identification, over 25,000 cases of 2019n-CoV have been confirmed around the world, primarily in China.
There are currently no reported cases of the virus in Harris County, however public health officials are confident that should a case be discovered in Texas, the state’s medical infrastructure is more than capable of managing containment and treatment of the virus.
“As a community and as a region, we have never been more ready for an outbreak than right now,” said Dr. Luis Ostrosky, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, McGovern Medical School, “In recent years we have experienced SARS, MERS, ebola. We’ve drafted policies, we will be purchasing PPEs (personal protective equipment) and it is just a matter of plugging in the right pathogen and the right signage and we’re ready to go.”
Members of the panel also pointed out that vaccine development is already underway.
Dr. Philip Keiser, UTMB, cited that since the virus’ genetic sequence has been made available to medical professionals, the virus itself has been successfully replicated by numerous investigators around the country. Keiser went on to say that a candidate vaccine could be available in as little as three months.
Despite the virus’ absence in Texas, its impact is being felt on local communities.
“We’ve responded to concerns in our local Asian-American community and found that there are a lot of rumors about members of this community (possibly having coronavirus). The Asian-American community is not at an increased risk of contracting the virus, unless they have traveled to certain parts of the world in the past fourteen days,” said Shah.
Panelists also warned about the spread of misinformation about the virus via social media, referring to numerous posts with outdated images and claims made by false public health officials. Vigilance among social media users against outrageous claims was encouraged.
Dr. Robert Emery, who coordinated the panel, emphasized to the students the importance of cooperation amongst various public health agencies and skills sets. The discussion, he said “represents a wonderful learning opportunity for students to understand how such events unfold.”