School of Public Health and Community Medicine

CRE ISER Banner

NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence, Integrated Systems for Epidemic Response

The urgent nature of epidemic infectious diseases bring specific challenges in disease control. Epidemics can cause immediate health, social and economic impacts, and require complex cross-sectoral and global response as illustrated by the 2014 Ebola epidemic. Travel and globalisation mean that infections spread rapidly around the world, so that global solutions are required for epidemic control. Recent developments in artificially engineered pathogens (dual-use research of concern) pose an added complexity to global biosecurity. Global systems, thinking and capability in biosecurity has lagged behind quantum changes in science, leaving us more vulnerable than ever to infectious diseases epidemics. This Centre addresses critical systems gaps in epidemic control. 

The NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence, Integrated Systems for Epidemic Response (ISER) conducts applied systems research, enhance collaboration and build capacity in health systems research for epidemic control. We bring together experts in field epidemiology and epidemic response, military experts, international law and risk science experts, and government and non-government agencies involved in epidemic response. The ARM Network for epidemic response is central to the CRE, with the co-founders all being part of the CRE. This Centre is international, with partners in Australia, New Zealand, USA, China, Malaysia and Indonesia who work together to solve global problems in epidemic response. A pillar of the CRE is ISER Academy, which is a think-tank and convenor of important dialogue, capacity building and generation of ideas, between all stakeholders and sectors involved in epidemic response. The Academy is inclusive - if you are interested in knowing more or being connected with the CRE, get in touch!

Read our piece in the Sydney Morning Herald coinciding with the launch of ISER in Dec 2015

image - ISER Overview image - ISER Overview image - Raina MacIntyre global pandemics
 

We play a major role in building national and international multi-sectoral capacity to respond effectively to infectious diseases and bioterrorism threats, and generate research which can be translated into improved epidemic response. Our unique strength is our experience and track record in real field response to epidemics, combined with academic rigour and research.

Image - ARM Network

 

 

Firefighters decontaminate and triage victim FlickrEpidemic response, control and prevention
We conduct research in applied field epidemiology, outbreak response, on performances of deployed international health responders and barriers to deployment, rapid diagnostics, personal protective equipment, vaccines other interventions, and on engagement with response agencies. The ARM network and our links to key NGOs and other organisations involved in epidemic response facilitate this research. ISER contains the largest body of Australian expertise in field epidemiology and epidemic response.


 

Wikipedia Commons James Gathany Aedes aegypti mosquitoEpidemic intelligence and risk analysis
This research aims to improve decision and policy making in public health by providing better frameworks for epidemic response.  We conduct research on epidemic modelling techniques, risk analysis science, evaluating current bioterrorism response systems, digital disease surveillance, predictive research and ethics in epidemics. This research is collaborative and multi-sectoral. A current focus is rapid intelligence systems for epidemic alert, and toward this, ISER is sponsoring a hackathon to enable students to form teams and develop such systems with guidance from the ISER investigators.


 

US Army Flickr ISERISER academy
The third pillar of the CRE is a novel, cross-sectoral think-tank that provides a forum for collaboration between public health, health systems, emergency medicine, paramedics, defence, security, law enforcement, legal experts and ethicists, and it includes workshops, research on joint leadership of epidemics, identifying gaps in legislation surrounding bioterrorism, and research surrounding the international law and ethics of engineered pathogens. We also provide capacity building, skills development and mentoring for junior researchers, and encourage linkages between essential sectors in epidemic response. The Academy was initiated at a multi-sectorial stakeholder workshop in Canberra in May 2016.  Please contact us if you would like to be involved and have access to events and mailing lists.

CRE Publications (click link to go to publication page)

 

 

Chief Investigators

Image - Professor Raina MacIntyre

Professor Raina MacIntyre

UNSW

Professor Raina MacIntyre is Head of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at UNSW and Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology. She runs a highly strategic research program spanning epidemiology, vaccinology, mathematical modelling, PPE and clinical trials in infectious diseases. Her research is underpinned by extensive field epidemic investigation experience. She is a graduate of the only Australian Field Epidemiology Training program, the MAE at ANU, and has extensive experience in shoe-leather epidemiology of investigating infectious diseases outbreaks including influenza, meningococcal disease, clostridium perfringens, hepatitis A, legionella, mycoplasma, pertussis and gastroenteritis to name a few. In her field epidemic experience, she has waded in mud in flood ravaged towns, inspected dead animals in water reservoirs, donned face masks and managed outbreaks in settings as diverse as nursing homes, school camps, brothels, rural communities and restaurants. Her in-depth understanding of the science of outbreak investigation draws from her practical field experience, combined with her academic training through a Masters and PhD in Epidemiology. She has dual medical specialisations in both internal medicine and public health. Her passion for field epidemiology led her to co-found the ARM network for Australian outbreak response, Australia’s first emergency response network for epidemics, which has already deployed members to many international outbreaks. ARM is central to this CRE and provides the operational capacity to realize the vision of this venture.  She conceived this CRE through observing the gaps in epidemic response nationally and internationally, and with the aim of addressing these gaps to strengthen and link the systems involved in response. The CRE brings together an international team, with the capability and necessary links to create new paradigms in epidemic response. Within the CRE for Epidemic Response, she will lead the novel concept of an inter-sectoral academy, a think-tank which brings together key stakeholders in epidemic response from multiple sectors, as well as research on epidemic response. See full research profile and Research Lab.

 

Image - Prof Martyn Kirk

 

Professor Martyn Kirk

Australian National University

Professor Kirk is currently Head of the Master of Philosophy Applied Epidemiology (MAE) program — the Australian Field Epidemiology Training Program — at the Australian National University. He is a field epidemiologist with extensive experience investigating the epidemiology of food- and waterborne diseases. During the last twenty five years, Prof Kirk has worked at State, National and international levels at the intersection between applied research and government policy.

 

Image - Prof Archie Clements

 

Professor Archie Clements

Australian National University

Professor Clements is Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Director of the Research School of Population Health (RSPH) at the Australian National University, NHMRC Senior Research Fellow and head of the Global Health Group at ANU RSPH. His research, and that of the Global Health Group, focus on improving the efficiency/effectiveness of public health interventions for a range of infectious diseases including parasitic diseases; mosquito-borne diseases; and emerging healthcare-acquired infections.

 

Image - Prof Paul Komesaroff

 

Professor Paul Komesaroff

Monash University

Paul Komesaroff, a physician, medical researcher, ethicist and philosopher at Monash University in Melbourne, where he is Professor of Medicine. His academic training has been in pure mathematics, philosophy, social theory and medicine. He is a practising clinician, specialising in the field of endocrinology, and his scientific research work focuses on the effects of hormones on the cardiovascular system. He is also Executive Director of the international NGO Global Reconciliation. Within the CRE he will lead research on ethical aspects of disaster response.

 

Image - Prof David Heslop

 

Associate Professor David Heslop

UNSW

Dr David Heslop (FRACGP MBBS PhD(Medicine) MPH BSc (Adv) Hons 1) is an Associate Professor at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at UNSW, and retains significant military responsibilities as Senior Medical Adviser for CBRNE to Special Operations Headquarters Australia and to Australian Defence Force (ADF) joint senior leadership. He was appointed as Senior Medical Officer for Special Operations Command for 2014, and was the Officer Commanding and Senior Medical Officer to the ADF CBRN medical incident response element at Special Operations Engineer Regiment from 2012-2015.  Dr Heslop is a practicing vocationally registered General Practitioner, a senior trainee in Occupational and Environmental Medicine with RACP, and a fellowship candidate for the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. Dr Heslop’s doctoral research focussed on the central autonomic anatomy and integrative neurophysiology relating to the cardiovascular response to noxious inescapable physiological stimuli such as severe haemorrhage and visceral pain. He is an international expert in Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) and general military medicine, and regularly is consulted and participates in the development and review of national and international clinical and operational CBRNE policy and doctrine. He is a peer reviewer for the journals Military Medicine (AMSUS) and Journal and Military and Veterans Health (AMMA). Dr Heslop’s current research effort and interests touch on complexity science, agent based and deterministic modelling, emergent complex adaptive systems phenomena, test and evaluation of systems, policy research, epidemic modelling, exotic and emerging infections, disaster preparedness and response, organisational resilience in health care, development of robust socio-technical systems in health care, and the modelling, simulation and investigation of public health interventions and systems.

 

Image - Prof Quanyi Wang

 

Professor Quanyi Wang

Beijing Centre for Disease Control, China

Professor Wang is Professor of Epidemiology and Director of Institute for Infectious Disease and Endemic Disease Control, Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control. He is currently working as a medical epidemiologist at Beijing CDC in charge of prevention and control of major infectious diseases including plague, cholera, avian influenza, influenza, and new emerging infectious diseases in Beijing area. He has done research on emerging infectious diseases and PPE.

 

Image - Prof Sahotra Sakar

 

Professor Sahotra Sakar

University of Texas, Austin, U.S.

Professor Sakar is Professor in the Departments of Integrative Biology and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin and External Faculty at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). By training, he is a philosopher of science and applied mathematician. Besides these disciplines, his laboratory focuses on disease ecology and epidemiology and conservation biology. Work in the laboratory focuses on comprehensive multi-purpose spatial planning using formal techniques from ecology and decision theory.

 

Image - Prof William Rawlinson

 

Professor William Rawlinson

Prince of Wales Hospital (SEALS Microbiology) & UNSW Australia

Professor William Rawlinson is Conjoint Professor at University of NSW in the School of Medical Sciences (Faculty of Medicine) and School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences (Faculty of Science), Senior Medical Virologist, Director of the Virology Division SEALS, and consultant at the Royal Hospital for Women, Prince of Wales and Sydney Children’s Hospitals. He undertakes research focused on understanding virus pathogenesis, and novel diagnostic assays, linking basic and clinical research. His research group has developed internationally novel models to examine molecular and cellular events during viral infection, and collaborates closely with diagnostic researchers in academic and diagnostic company spheres. Professor Rawlinson received a 2011 Order of Australia (AM) for service to the medical sciences.

 

Image - Dr Paul De Barro

 

Dr Paul De Barro

CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship, Australia

Dr Paul De Barro is a Senior Principal Research Scientist and is the Research Director of the CSIRO Biosecurity, Risk Evaluation and Preparedness Program. Dr De Barro joined CSIRO in 1994 after completing a PhD on insect ecology at the University of Adelaide in 1992 and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Southampton and established an internationally recognised research program focused on managing the silverleaf whitefly and his research has contributed considerably to its control in Australia and our global understanding of invasive whitefly pests.   In 2014 Paul and his whitefly research team was awarded CSIRO’s highest honour, the Chairman’s Medal, for its delivery of a long-term, sustainable pest control solution for Australia’s horticultural, nursery, cotton and grain legume industries against the damaging invasive pest, silverleaf whitefly.

 

Image - Prof Michael Baker

 

Professor Michael Baker

University of Otago, New Zealand

Professor Baker is a trained medical practitioner, specialist public health physician and professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington.  He is a Fellow of the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine (AFPHM) and the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine (NZCPHM). Professor Baker has a leadership role in research at the University of Otago. He is Director of the Health Environment and Infection Research Unit (HEIRU), Co-Director of He Kainga Oranga / Housing and Health Research Programme, and a Principal Investigator with the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities and One Health Aotearoa.

 

Associate Investigators

  • Professor Obijiofor Aginam, United Nations University-International Institute for Global Health, Malaysia
  • Dr Anthony Stewart, Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, WHO (Geneva) and Centre for International Health, Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health
  • Associate Professor Joanne Travaglia, University of Technology
  • Dr Gina Samaan, WHO Influenza Program (Geneva)
  • Dr Anita Heywood, University of New South Wales, Australia
  • Dr Nicholas Coatsworth, former Director, National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC), Darwin, Australia; now Director of Infectious Diseases, Canberra Hospital.

Associates

Professional Research Persons

PhD students

Members of Scientific Advisory Committee

  • Prof Martyn Jeggo (co-chair) : Director, Geelong Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Deakin University,
  • Prof Graham Brown (co-chair) : Foundation Director of the Nossal Institute for Global Health, University of Melbourne.
  • Professor Tony Adams : Former Foundation President, International Education Association of Australia
  • Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas: Director of Australia21, Visiting Fellow at ANU and former Director of National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at ANU
  • Professor Paul Kelly : Chief Health Officer and Deputy Director General Population Health, ACT Government Health Directorate
  • Professor John Mackenzie : Research associate, and professor of tropical viral diseases at Curtin University in Western Australia, Honorary professor of microbiology at the University of Queensland and Honorary senior principal research fellow at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne.
  • Dr Colin Tukuitonga : Director-General, WHO Secretariat of the Pacific Community
  • Professor Tom Frame : Director, Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society (ACSACS) 
  • Dr Peta Mantel : LTCOLStrategic Health, Australian Defence Force
  • Professor Fleur Johns : Professor and Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Law
  • Prof Mark Ferson : Director and Public Health Officer, Public Health Unit, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District,

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_041031-N-2805L-243_A_Sailor_keeps_a_lookout_using_binoculars_on_the_Signal_Bridge_aboard_the_Nimitz-class_aircraft_carrier_USS_Harry_S._Truman_%28CVN_75%29.jpg

Epi-watch is an observatory for outbreak scanning and rapid analysis. We provide more than a description of outbreaks. We analyse epidemic patterns, meet weekly and review current outbreaks in our team, and provide you with a summary of our critical analysis. Our team work daily on Epi-Watch and provide timely analyses.

Outbreak alerts

 

Read about the latest outbreak alerts here.

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Watching Briefs

Infectious Diseases Blog

 

Read our latest topical blogs in infectious diseases threats here.

Visit ID blog

Publications and critical analysis from our team

 

Read key publications from the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Epidemic Response

Read CRE key publications

Other resources:

Our top picks for Outbreak News

 


image - ISER Events

 

A global pandemic experience – cross sectoral lessons - 

ISER at the World Congress on Public Health, Melbourne, April 3rd 2017

 
 

 

Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases: threats to Pacific human health and security. Dr Salanieta Saketa

Friday March 31st, 12-1pm, SPHCM UNSW. 


 

Iser Icebreak eventWed Nov 30th 2016, UNSW

Hear the latest updates in health security and epidemic intelligence from a range of national and international experts.

PROGRAM

4:00 pm Emerging threats in human biosecurity. Professor Raina MacIntyre, Director, NHMRC CRE , Integrated Systems for Epidemic Response

4:20 pm Australian Biological Laboratory Network and developments. Ms Julie Peeler, Senior SO S&T Adviser , Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), Australia

4:40 pm Gain of function research and DIY Biology from a law enforcement perspective. Chief Tom Engells, Chief of Police at The University of Texas Medical Branch Police Department

5:00 pm Tactical response in biothreat environments. A/ Professor David Heslop, Associate professor , UNSW and Senior Medical Adviser for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive to Special Operations Headquarters Australia.

5:20 pm Biosecurity Preparedness and Response Capacity in the United States: Assessing Policy and Practice 15 Years after 9/11. A / Professor Brian Gerber, Director, Emergency Management & Homeland Security program, College of Public Service & Community Solutions I Arizona State University.

5:40 pm International Health Regulations, Biological Weapons Convention and the Cartegena protocol – what are the gaps? Professor Obi Aginam , Director Ad-Interim/Officer-in-Charge, United Nations University-International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH) Malaysia

6:00 pm ISER Academy Networking Event, Drinks and Canapes on the Terrace

After the seminar, enjoy a drink, nibbles and networking with colleagues from different sectors involved in front line epidemic response. For early and mid-career colleagues, we have arranged mentoring moments , where senior mentors from all sectors will be available for one hour to chat to you and give you career insights and tips.

Don’t miss out!  Save the date and register your interest now, a full program will follow.

RSVP: Elizabeth Kpozehouen e.kpozehouen@unsw.edu.au, Tel +61 2 9385 1192


 

Data, Disruption and Unnatural Pandemics

Raina MacIntyre

Join the AGSM Australian School of Business Activation Event, featuring Raina MacIntyre, Professor of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, for fascinating insights into business-led transformation on the frontiers of genetics and biosecurity. Following the live case study, Professor MacIntyre will be joined by industry experts from Westpac and CSIRO for an audience Q+A.

When: Tuesday, 11 October, 7:30 am - 9:30 am

Where: Four Seasons Hotel Sydney - 199 George Street, Sydney, NSW

CLICK HERE TO HEAR THE PODCAST


APRU conference - the changing landscape of Emerging Infectious Diseases

The conference of the Asia-Pacific Rim Universities, to be held at UNSW in 2016, with a theme of Global Health - the Double Burden of Disease (communicable and non-communicable diseases). Prof Raina MacIntyre will speak on the changing landscape of emerging infectious diseases on Thursday September 29th at 11am.

When: Sept 28-30th 2016 

Where: UNSW Australia

 

 

Pandemics, Bioterrorism and Biosecurity in 2016

Image - Pandemics, Bioterrorism & Biosecurity flyer

Wednesday, 13 July 2016 | 2:30 - 3:30 pm
ASU SkySong, Building 1, Room 349, Discovery Meeting Room, Arizona State University

Join us for a talk by Professor Raina MacIntyre, Head, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW Australia and Adjunct Professor at the College of Public Affairs and Community Solutions at Arizona State University, where she works with ASU colleagues on teaching and research collaborations within the PluS Alliance.

For more information see flyer.


 

Alex RosewellPiloting mobile technologies and GIS in the capture and reporting of National Health Information System data in Papua New Guinea

SPHCM Seminar by Dr Alex Rosewell - 13 July 2016, 12:00 - 1:00 pm

Dr Alex Rosewell's presentation describes the process of piloting mobile technologies and GIS in the capture and reporting of National Health Information System (NHIS) data in Papua New Guinea. The initiative illustrates how the country may soon harness the information they need to plan, manage, and account for the results of their health policies, to respond to inequities in health, and to measure progress in achieving subnational and national global health goals, and better orient international donor support.

For more information see flyer.


 

Raina MacIntyreInnovations in Aged Care and Program Delivery

Prof Raina MacIntyre's keynote address at the International Federation on Ageing 13th Global Conference, Brisbane, Australia, 21 - 23 June 2016

Providing efficient and effective aged care services is one of the greatest public policy concerns currently facing governments today. A radical shift in thought, innovation, and action is required in the development of models and modes of care to meet the expectations of future generations of older people.  Against the backdrop of globalisation and urbanisation, country and regional trends in population ageing provide unique opportunities to examine the effectiveness of aged care policy and the applicability of various models of care to countries with younger demographic profiles. <See abstract>


 

Image - virusesHot topics in biosecurity and epidemic response

Special International Seminar  - 24 May 2016, 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

A special seminar will be held on 24th May 2016 in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW Australia. Come and hear from international experts from the US and Malaysia on a range of topic related to international health law, global biosecurity and emergency management.  No RSVP is required and a light refreshment will be provided.

For more information see flyer.

Inquiries to Dr Abrar Chughtai: abrar.chughtai@unsw.edu.au


 

Boy WHO Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases http://www.who.int/csr/disease/en/ISER stakeholder workshop on epidemic response

Canberra - May 23rd 2016

By invitation only. Inquiries to Dr Abrar Chughtai: abrar.chughtai@unsw.edu.au


 

A Professor David HeslopDisentangling the complexity of Black Swans

Wednesday 16 March, 12.00 - 1.00 pm

Seminar by Dr David Heslop who is an Associate Professor at the SPHCM, and retains significant military responsibilities as Senior Medical Adviser for CBRNE to Special Operations Headquarters Australia and to Australian Defence Force (ADF) joint senior leadership. Black Swans – for example Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) attacks, Weapon of Mass Destruction events, natural disasters or major epidemics – are high consequence crises that have historically been thought to occur rarely and are largely unpredictable. <See flyer>


 

Police Technology ForumPolice Technology Forum

Emerging Bioterrorism Threats - Professor Raina MacIntyre

22 - 23 March 2016, Hyatt Hotel, Canberra

Global political instability and conflict perpetuates the risk of CBRNE threats. Momentous changes in science leave the world at risk of bioterrorism. The public availability of methods for genetic engineering, risks of laboratory accidents, coupled with the insider threat, poses an unprecedented risk for biosecurity and for law enforcement at the front line. This talk will cover differences between terrorism and bioterrorism; contagion; recognition of unnatural epidemics; availability of bioweapons; the insider threat; and personal protection for police.

Antibiotics for pneumonia failing manyimage - ISER News

One-in-four patients with pneumonia don't respond to antibiotics, leading to calls for older Australians to get vaccinated against a deadly strain of the serious lung infection.A US study of 250,000 people presented at the American Thoracic Society International conference in Washington showed antibiotics failed to treat community-acquired pneumonia - that is outside of a hospital - in 20 per cent of cases.

 <Read the SBS News article>


 

Students find early signals of the Zika virus outbreakimage - ISER News

A digital disease detection tool that picked up signals of an outbreak of Zika months earlier than it was officially detected in Brazil has won the UNSW ZikaHACK competition. The NHMNRC Centre for Research Excellence, Integrated Systems for Epidemic Response (ISER) sponsored the international challenge for multidisciplinary teams of students to develop a digital tool for early disease detection.

 <Read the UNSW News article>


 

Raina MacIntyre video presentation swine fluWhat is "swine Flu" H1N1? Explainer

A brief video explainer on swine flu H1N1pdm09

 


 

Building knowledge of biosecurity and bioterrorism threatsimage - ISER News

As the risk of biological agent attacks and epidemics increases in the 21st century,so too does the need to build knowledge of how to identify and respond to these events.UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine will this month hold free a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on biosecurity and bioterrorism which is drawing people from a wide range of backgrounds with an interest in understanding the security environment of the future.

 <Read the UNSW News article>


 

Flu Pandemic MacIntyreFlu pandemic likelihood increasing as new strains emerge, UNSW researchers warn

A gathering number of new influenza strains in the past five years has escalated the likelihood of a major influenza pandemic on the scale of the deadly Spanish flu, researchers say. UNSW researchers in the School of Public Health are calling for better collaboration between countries and first responder agencies in the event of a flu pandemic. <Read SMH News article>


 

Flu Pandemic MacIntyreISER presentation at the World Congress of Public Health - ‘A global pandemic experience – Cross sectoral lessons’.

The World Congress on Public Health was held in Melbourne on 3 -7 April 2017. ISER took part in World Leadership Dialogues symposia, on Tuesday 4th of April 4 – 6 pm, giving a presentation of a hypothetical pandemic disaster experience titled, ‘A global pandemic experience – cross sectoral lessons’ .The presentation was well attended , the audience gained an appreciation of the urgency and unpredictability of emerging infectious diseases, and the overwhelming challenges faced at systems levels internationally. 


 

Flu Pandemic MacIntyreMedia release 3.8 Million Australians adults missing out on free, life - saving vaccinations 

Up to 3.8 million Australian adults are missing out on free vaccinations each year, putting themselves at risk of contracting life-threatening, yet preventable infections,1 according to a report published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) today (March 27, 2017). The report, entitled Vaccine Myopia, coincides with the launch of the University of New South Wales Vaccine and Infection Research Lab (UNSW VIRL), Sydney – a national research centre of excellence designed to tackle the serious issue of low adult vaccination rates, and reduce the gap between infant and adult vaccination. According to lead author and Senior Lecturer at UNSW VIRL, Dr Rob Menzies, only one-in-two Australian adults (51 per cent) are receiving their Government-funded vaccinations each year, compared to 93 per cent of Australian children, and 73 per cent of Australian adolescents.

READ more from UNSW-VIRL news


 

Raina MacIntyreFirst responder

Professor Raina MacIntyre is on the front line of the fight against emerging bio-threats. She warns biosecurity breaches could be as catastrophic as nuclear war. Her interest in bioterrorism stems from concerns around dual-use research that is done “with the intent of helping humanity, but which can also harm – either by deliberate misuse or by accident”. <Read UNSW Uniken article>


 

Bird flu resurgence Raina MacIntyreBird-flu resurgence in Asia

The spread of several strains of bird flu is on the rise, with Malaysia reporting an outbreak of a highly contagious H5N1 bird flu virus in the northern part of the country.


 

Check out Pandemic, our new web series about Bioterrorism and Health image - ISER NewsIntelligence

Our movie Pandemic has been nominated for 4 awards at the Melbourne Web Festival.  You can view the trailer and then click-through to view the full five-part series.


 

Smallpox, permafrost, lab accidents and biowarfare - how great is the threat?

Read about the current concerns about the melting permafrost in Siberia and the risk of smallpox re-emerging.


 

Social media for tracking outbreaks - fad or way of the future?

Social media has revolutionised how we communicate. In this series in the Conversation, Raina MacIntyre looks at how it has changed health and epidemic surveillance.
 

Zika virus in Singapore

Raina MacIntyre quoted on local Zika virus transmission in Singapore. See also:

New blog on Zika virus in Singapore

And other news stories:

http://www.afr.com/news/world/singapore-steps-up-zika-campaign-after-41-infections-20160829-gr3ruq

https://www.biznews.com/health/2016/08/29/zika-spreads-through-sex-scarier-than-hivaids/

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-29/singapore-steps-up-zika-fight-after-confirming-41-local-cases


ISER Director Raina MacIntyre named in the Chief Scientist's list #5ScientistsPledge

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, has released a cheat sheet to help Australians finish their Five Scientist Pledge, with more than 750 scientists listed.

“During National Science Week, I called on all Australians to take the Five Scientist Pledge – a promise to learn the names of five living Australian scientists,” Dr Finkel said.

“And Australia responded! In just four days, more than 750 individual scientists were named and recognised on social media. Hundreds more were identified only by first name, last name or nickname.


Measles outbreaks imported through travelMeasles Outbreaks imported through travel and vaccine refusal

Travelling overseas? Get immunised to prevent measles outbreaks in Australia. Unimmunised travellers visiting family and friends overseas remain the biggest source of measles outbreaks in Australia, according to new UNSW research.
 
 

 

Australian researcher stresses the importance of biosecurity

Public health physician Raina MacIntyre studies the unthinkable: the possibility of global pandemics involving highly contagious infections that quickly spread from person to person. Because of terrorism, the threat posed by the use of harmful microorganisms is very real today.  Many dangerous viruses can be genetically engineered. Bioterrorism can be targeted at a larger population or a single person. MacIntyre noted the latter could still cause an epidemic because of contagion.

<Read article>

image - ISER News

 


 

Professor: Increasing Pandemics are Cause for Concern

The measles outbreak in Pinal County is the largest current one in the U.S. There have been 22 cases in Arizona since late May. Measles was wiped out in the U.S. in 2000, but it’s returned recently because of some people who have chosen to avoid vaccinations. The Arizona cases are centered around the Eloy Detention Center where, according to Pinal County Health Director Thomas Schryer, the refusal of some employees to get vaccinated may exacerbate the problem. Prof Raina MacIntyre of UNSW Australia is in the Valley this week as part of a presentation at ASU on pandemics, bioterrorism and biosecurity.

<Listen to audio>

image - ISER News

Spherical-shaped measles virus particle by CDC


 

Raina MacIntyreVaccines: don’t forget the elderly

In the current climate of heated debate around childhood vaccination and “no jab no play” laws, it is easy to lose sight of society's other disease-vulnerable group: the elderly. In fact, with vaccination rates significantly higher in infants than in their grandparents – despite free vaccines being provided for both groups – it becomes painfully clear just how neglected this aspect of their health is. 

<See MJA article>


 

ISER Academy consultation workshopISER Academy consultation workshop - May 2016

The ISER Academy is the central pillar of the new NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence “Integrated Systems for Epidemic Response” (ISER) which has a remit to improve our response capability to epidemic disasters, and specifically to bring together first responders for improved cross-sectoral collaboration. 

<See news article>


 

ISER Academy consultation workshopPreliminary summary of results: real‐time infectious disease modelling stakeholder workshop, 29 April 2016

Aim:
To determine the needs of stakeholders to be considered in the design and deployment of real-time infectious disease modelling tools.

<See news article>


 

person blowing noseAre hankies as gross as they seem?

It's official: carrying a handkerchief is better than sneezing into your hands, but it's still pretty gross when compared to disposable tissues.That's according to Professor Raina MacIntyre, head of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at UNSW, who we turned to find out if using Dad's old hankies is a strict winter no-no.
 
 

 

A Roswell on WHO mission in the Americas investigating Zika virusDr Alex Rosewell from ISER is on a WHO mission investigating Zika virus in several countries in the Americas

This story is from the Dominican Republic.  <See article>

Dr Rosewell is second from the left.


 

Legionnaires outbreak in Sydney not over

Prof Raina MacIntyre's views on the outbreak - Daily Telepgraph March 18th 2016


Threat of bioterrroism due to gain of function research

Sydney Morning Herald Dec 2015

Calling University Students!
WIN $15,000

The problem: Pandemics, epidemics and outbreaks of infectious diseases are an escalating threat globally.  When large scale epidemics or pandemics occur, often our systems cannot deal effectively with them, resulting in preventable deaths and serious illness, as well as catastrophic disruption to society, as seen with Ebola in 2014, and more recently with Zika virus and birth defects.  Epidemic control has many facets, but starts with surveillance and early detection. In public health, the word "surveillance" has a specific meaning, outlined for you below. However, intelligence gathering in public health is similar in methodology and principles to intelligence gathering in many other areas. Traditional public health surveillance may use data from doctors, laboratories or sentinel networks.  This yields more accurate data, but may not be timely.  Earlier detection of outbreaks makes outbreak control more successful, and may even prevent large scale, catastrophic epidemics or pandemics. If an outbreak can be identified very early before it becomes large scale, it can be controlled rapidly.

ZikaHACK ’16 is sponsored by The NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence, Integrated Systems for Epidemic Response (ISER), for multidisciplinary student teams to come together to design and develop a tool early identification of disease outbreaks. The tool should be a technology solution that makes use of public domain information, with the early detection of the 2015/16 Zika virus outbreak used as a framework. The challenge is to see who can detect an abnormal surveillance signal earliest prior to the official recognition of the Brazilian Zika Virus outbreak. What signal do you look for? How do you identify such a signal? How early could you have picked the outbreak? These questions should be brainstormed within competing teams.

If you have any questions contact: Dillon Adam: EpiWATCH-ISER@unsw.edu.au

ZikaHack Flyer

 

Information for applicants

Essential background Zika virus PH Surveillance Essential background PH Surveillance
Competition Details Key Dates
Phase 1: Shortlisting - concept design Phase 2: Product Development
Essential resources Bibliography
FAQs Terms & Conditions

 

Essential background on Zika virus:

Zika virus was first identified in monkeys in 1947, and then in humans in 1952 in Uganda (1).  Prior to 2007, the virus was not considered a public health problem; it was occasionally reported in equatorial regions of Africa and Asia (2). In 2015, the virus was found to have spread widely throughout Brazil & South America and was associated with an increase in birth defects such as microcephaly (a small head). This prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the current Zika virus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern on 1st February 2016 (3). WHO/PAHO release an epidemiological alert for possible Zika virus infection in Brazil on 7th May 2015 (4) It is estimated that anywhere between 10-80% of the Brazilian population has been exposed to the virus (5-7).

Most people with Zika infection appear healthy and may have no symptoms at all (8). If signs and symptoms do appear, they are mostly mild and resolve by themselves (8-10). Commonly described symptoms include: fever, rash, joint pain and eye pain but more severe disease is rare. This makes disease detection difficult as these types of symptoms can look a lot like other diseases such as a mild flu, or more severe infections such as dengue and yellow fever. Zika virus infections have also been associated with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (a neurological condition that causes paralysis in people of any age) (11).

People become infected with Zika after being bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus. However not all mosquito species can carry the virus – species which are able to carry the virus include the Aedes Aegypti, commonly known as the Yellow Fever Mosquito, and the Aedes albopictus, commonly known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito. (12, 13)  There is also evidence that the common Culex species mosquitoes can carry the Zika virus, however transmission has yet to be confirmed.

There is also a small chance of Zika transmission following sexual contact with an infected person (14, 15). Close, non-sexual contact with another infected person has not been reported as a risk factor for infection. Mothers infected with Zika virus during pregnancy transmit the virus to their newborns during pregnancy (16).  

Current evidence suggests that Zika virus may cause microcephaly and other severe brain defects in babies born to infected mothers. (17, 18) Many women may not even know they have become infected until their baby is born with a birth defect after nine months gestation. The risk of microcephaly due to Zika is estimated to be low, ranging from 0-5%, however it may be nearer to 30% (5-7).

Babies born with birth defects, such as microcephaly, eye lesions and arthrogryposis (twisted limbs), have been more likely to have a mother with Zika virus infection or symptoms. (17, 18) Many women may not even know they have become infected until their baby is born with a birth defect after nine months. The risk of microcephaly due to Zika is estimated to be low, ranging from 0-5%, but may be nearer to 30%. (5-7) However, the infection has been so widespread in Brazil that between 1st of January 2016 and 2nd of July 2016 approximately 165,907 suspected and confirmed cases of Zika virus have been reported (19).

The first cluster of microcephaly cases in Brazil were reported in August 2015 (20), suggesting a substantial epidemic at least 9 months before. WHO/PAHO issued an epidemiological alert in November 2015 and asked countries to report increases of congenital microcephaly and other central nervous system malformations.


 

Essential background on Public Health Surveillance:

Effective intervention during epidemics such as Zika virus relies on the rapid and early detection of outbreaks through public health surveillance. Public health surveillance is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “the continuous, systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of health-related data needed for the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practice”. (21-23) Traditional public health disease surveillance, such as collated reports from laboratories and doctors, is often not timely enough for early intervention, because test results have to be validated and checked. Most forms of public health surveillance include elements of case detection, reporting, analysis, validation and dissemination to detect outbreaks and inform control measures.

The sheer increase in public domain data, driven by the internet, smart phones and social media use, mean that a lot of information about our day to day activities is readily accessible. In this deluge lies useful information relevant to various aspects of human life including public health surveillance and epidemiology. Research has implicated the potential use of public domain data in public health surveillance that can complement traditional surveillance. (24, 25) The term “Digital Epidemiology” has come to encompass the use of online data for the purposes of population health surveillance. For example, Twitter has been used to track the incidence of Influenza A H1N1 in the USA, anonymous web logs for screening of pancreatic cancer, Facebook activities for predicting mental illness, and much more.

See essential resources  for more detail on these approaches.

One of the most successful health surveillance tools that utilize public domain data is Health Map. This system mines online media sources in 15 different languages for the purposes of monitoring disease outbreaks in real time, and provides a map of these outbreaks online. Other well-known surveillance efforts include Google Flu trends and Google Dengue Trends. Unfortunately, Google’s efforts are no longer maintained amid concerns about the validity and accuracy of their disease outbreak estimates.

Despite these limitations, public domain sources, such as online search engines, social media and blogs, can provide timely alerts for early detection of disease outbreaks (24, 26, 27). The WHO reports that more than 60% of their initial outbreak reports come from unofficial sources (28, 29). Because effective outbreak response relies on the rapid and early detection of disease outbreaks, the use of invalidated yet timely open source information can provide vital early warnings for authorities during epidemics.


 

Competition Details:

We challenge teams to develop a computer system/software tool to mine public domain information to detect the 2015 Zika outbreak faster than traditional surveillance methods using any technical platform of your choice (such as Python and R) The team that develops the best tool, will win $15,000 and will be able to work with the EpiWATCH team to further develop their concept.

The event is open to a team consisting of a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 members comprising of current students from any University around the world. The team should contain both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Teams must be multidisciplinary and must have students from at least 2 disciplines, one in a health related discipline (such as medicine, nursing, public health, allied health) and one in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) discipline. Other disciplines can also be included in the team.  We suggest you approach your university to assist with coordinating and connecting you with other students interested in forming a team or try connect using the ZikaHACK Facebook event page here: https://goo.gl/cYoHuY. Part of the competition is about forming teams across faculties, and across postgraduate and undergraduate programs.

Eligibility criteria

  • Student team has 3 to 6 enrolled students (who must all be enrolled at the time of the Phase 1 Submission Date of 30 November 2016)
  • There is a single nominated team leader
  • Team includes undergraduate and postgraduate students
  • Team includes students from the following two discipline areas: STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and health related (medicine, nursing, public health, allied health) disciplines
  • Must be studying at a registered university and recognised within its country as a university.
  • Letter of support including verification of the student’s status of enrolment using the template provided for each team member is attached to the application. [Student Verification Template].
  • Application is in English
  • No team member has a direct connection with any investigator or affiliate of ISER (such as a student-supervisor relationship)
  • The work has been done entirely by the student team, with no other assistance.
  • All students have agreed to be named as part of the team
  • The application coversheet, eligibility criteria checklist and declaration is completed and submitted with the application. [Application Coversheet]

The competition will consist of two phases: (i) shortlisting-concept design phase; and (ii) product development phase.  Shortlisted proposals will proceed to phase two and have the opportunity to interact with the ISER team to further develop their ideas prior to product showcase and final demonstration in April 2017. The winning team will have the opportunity to collaborate with ISER on the development of a commercial product based on their Showcased Tool.


 

Key Dates:

  • Date for proposal submission (Design Phase): 5pm (AEDT), 30th November 2016.
  • Shortlist notification to participants: 15th December 2016.
  • Product Showcase Submission & Demonstration: April 2017.
  • Evaluation of Showcased Products by EpiWATCH team: May 2017.

 

Phase 1: Shortlisting - concept design Phase:

In this phase we invite participants to submit a detailed proposal on their method and approach to solving the problem. Each team will also need to address the specific problem of capturing early signals for the Zika epidemic. Proposals will be judged and shortlisted on the basis of the quality of the submission and originality of the solution. The proposal must be written in English and not exceed 3,000 words. Proposals must be submitted in .doc, .docx, or .pdf file format.  Teams are also required to submit a (i) CV not exceeding one page (ii) a letter of support from their University confirming they are an enrolled student at the time of submission; and (iii) a cover sheet. All proposals should be original work and will be checked for plagiarism by automated software. All files should be submitted electronically, via email to EpiWATCH-ISER@unsw.edu.au

Submissions are due 30th November 2016.


 

Phase 2: Product Development Phase:

Phase 2 is open to shortlisted applicants ONLY. Successful applicants will be contacted by 15th December 2016 with more details.

During Phase 2, teams will have the opportunity to interact & collaborate with the EpiWATCH team at ISER to develop their solution.  In this phase, each team will (i) gather data gathering relevant to the disease outbreak (ii) prepare and clean the data and (iii) design and utilize the best algorithms to detect outbreaks from the data preparation step (ii).

Criteria for evaluation by the EpiWATCH team:

  1. The ability of the tool to identify disease outbreaks early (as measured against retrospective data from the Zika virus epidemic).
  2. The quality of the test data submitted to the EpiWATCH team.
  3. The ease of use of the tool.
  4. Clarity and transparency of the tool.
  5. System documentation.
  6. Demonstrated multi-disciplinary approach to developing the tool.

Final solutions are due to be presented in April 2017.

The winning team will be announced in May 2017.


 

Essential resources:

A systematic review of using social media to track outbreaks:
Al-garadi MA, Khan MS, Varathan KD, Mujtaba G, Al-Kabsi AM: ‘Using online social networks to track a pandemic: A systematic review. Journal of Biomedical Informatics. 2016; 62:1-11.

A review of the traditional origins, methods, and evaluation of public health surveillance:
S. Declich and A.O. Carter: “Public health surveillance: historical origins, methods and evaluation” available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2486528/pdf/bullwho00413-0101.pdf

An example of using Twitter to track Influenza outbreaks in the USA:
Signorini A, Segre A M and Polgreen P M, "The Use of Twitter to Track Levels of Disease Activity and Public Concern in the U.S. during the Influenza A H1N1 Pandemic" available at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0019467

An example of using weblogs to screen for pancreatic cancer:
Paparrizos J, White R W and Horvitz E, "Screening for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma Using Signals From Web Search Logs: Feasibility Study and Results" available at http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/horvitz/JOP_June_2016.pdf

An example of using Facebook to monitor mental health:
Park S, Lee S W, Kwak J, Cha M, and Jeong B, "Activities on Facebook Reveal the Depressive State of Users" available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3806432/

A link to Health Map:
http://www.healthmap.org/site/about

A link to Google Flu Trends:
https://www.google.org/flutrends/about/


 

FAQs:

Q: I’m interested in participating but my friends aren’t, is there a way I can connect with other interested students to form a team?

A: Yes. We want to ensure that all students who are interested in participating can. We have set up a Facebook page (https://goo.gl/cYoHuY) where updates to the competition will be regularly posted. Individual students are welcome to use this page to network and form teams.


 

Q: Will prizes be given for second or third place?

A: No. Only the winning team will receive a cash prize $15,000. Teams who are shortlisted in Phase two will receive a certificate of merit from ISER.