SCOR Live Blog
Renowned epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet Speaks at SCOR conference
"Should we fear pandemics?” Lecture by Arnaud Fontanet SCOR Paris auditorium, 5 October 2016
As part of its new cycle of conferences devoted to “risk in all its forms”, on 5 October 2016 SCOR welcomed Professor Arnaud Fontanet.
A renowned epidemiologist, Professor Fontanet spoke for more than an hour about the complex issue of pandemics. For the past fifty years, the world has experienced a major health crisis approximately every five years – a phenomenon which is speeding up. Thus, over the past five years, we have seen the re-emergence of Ebola and the Zika virus. While diseases continue to be transmitted in the same way (transmission from animals to humans, as with AIDS and SARS, the mutation of pathogens, such as in flu, or geographical outbreaks, such as chikungunya), certain social developments can broaden their reach – these include the concentration of people in urban areas, increased mobility and the acceleration of global trade. For example, the Zika virus originated in Japan, then travelled by ship in a cargo of tyres, carried by mosquito larvae living in stagnant water.
The hazardousness of an epidemic depends on a number of factors. The most dangerous viruses are those transmitted by breathing, which are very contagious (even before the appearance of symptoms), and have a high mortality rate: influenza is thus one of the viruses most closely monitored by epidemiologists. The melting of permafrost, linked to global warming, could lead to the reappearance of forgotten or eradicated diseases such as smallpox. Constant vigilance must therefore be instilled, in order to hold back the development of epidemics. Social media networks and the internet provide a new and very useful monitoring tool, by showing the sudden and localised emergence of key words, which act as alerts (e.g. “sore throat” or “red eyes”).
A former resident in the Paris hospital system, a medical doctor (University of Paris V) and doctor of public health (Harvard University), Arnaud Fontanet specializes in the epidemiology of infectious and tropical diseases. After completing his doctoral thesis on the effectiveness of mefloquine in the treatment of malaria on the Thai/Cambodian border, he spent five years as project manager for a research program on AIDS in Ethiopia. Since January 2002, he has been Head of the Epidemiology of Emerging Diseases Unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. His main research areas are viral hepatitis and emerging viruses. Arnaud Fontanet is also a Professor - Health and Development Chair - at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM) and serves as the co-Director of the Pasteur-CNAM School of Public Health. In 2014, he was appointed Director of the Centre for Global Health at the Institut Pasteur.