Veterinary Student Designs an Outbreak Simulation.
Katherine Franc, a dual degree DVM-MPH student in the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Public Health, and Anna Chocallo, an MPH student concentrating in disaster management in the College of Public Health designed and organized an outbreak simulation for veterinary and public health students. Thirty-three students participated in the program, aptly titled “Spillover.” The event brought together facilitators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as faculty from the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Public Health, to stage a simulated infectious disease outbreak in the Athens, Georgia community.
“The tricky part about disease outbreaks is that you never know where the next pathogen is coming from. Viruses and bacteria can readily mutate, or spillover, acquiring an ability to infect new species and act in ways that we have never seen them behave before,” said Franc. “This is why we need the future of health scientists to be able to think and act quickly on their feet and be at the ready with knowledge from their own experiences and that of their colleagues to help guide the decisions that they make.”
Students from each of the colleges worked side by side and were then divided into teams and challenged to work through a hypothetical outbreak that was caused by a novel pathogen. This pathogen had contaminated waterways used for a triathlon event in which heavy rains in the area had caused runoff from a local swine farm. The students had to act as real-life “disease detectives,” and work through simulated exercises to quickly identify the source of the outbreak and plan steps for containment and remediation to prevent more people from becoming infected. The students learned how to wear protective equipment, how to analyze epidemiological data, and handling potentially dangerous pathogens.