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Vol. LVIII, No. 9
May 5, 2006

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Osterholm To Give Inaugural LaMontagne Lecture

Infectious disease expert Dr. Michael T. Osterholm.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Michael T. Osterholm will offer his views on influenza pandemic preparation during the first annual John R. LaMontagne Memorial Lecture, to be given Thursday, May 11 at 2 p.m. in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10.

During his talk, "Pandemic Influenza: Lessons Learned and Revisited," Osterholm, who is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, will examine current challenges in preparing for a potential flu pandemic and the truth about the avian flu threat. "A pandemic will happen, absolutely. It's like hurricanes. The big one might not happen this year, next year or even 5 years from now, but it will happen," he says. "What people need to understand is that nothing we do now to prepare will be wasted."

Despite what the media say, however, "we are not all going to die," he adds. "We can't change the future in terms of when a pandemic will occur, but we can change our level of preparedness and how we prioritize." According to Osterholm, this includes building vaccine reserve capacity and spurring a commitment to develop a universal flu vaccine applicable to a variety of flu strains.

"In 1961, President Kennedy pledged that we go to the moon by the end of that decade, and scientists rose to the challenge," he noted. "We have to have that same level of commitment for the flu vaccine."

In addition to his leadership role in CIDRAP, Osterholm is also associate director of the Department of Homeland Security's National Center for Food Protection and Defense and a professor in the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health. From 2001 to 2005, he served as special advisor to then HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on bioterrorism and public health preparedness issues. Last summer, HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt appointed Osterholm to the new National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity.

An epidemiologist by training, Osterholm served for 24 years with the Minnesota department of health where he led numerous investigations into infectious disease in child-care settings, the transmission of hepatitis B and HIV infection in health care settings and food-borne illness outbreaks.

The author of more than 300 journal articles, he also wrote the New York Times bestseller Living Terrors: What America Needs to Know to Survive the Coming Bioterrorist Catastrophe. His recent papers on flu pandemic preparation have appeared in Foreign Affairs, the New England Journal of Medicine and Nature. Osterholm is a fellow of both the American College of Epidemiology and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

The lecture honors Dr. John R. LaMontagne, former NIAID deputy director (1998-2004) whose leadership and accomplishments in fighting emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases earned him international recognition, numerous accolades and widespread admiration.

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