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CDC director to speak at Symposium focused on zoonotic disease

Chickens The College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University will be hosting the first annual Zoonotic Symposium on February 6-8, 2009. The symposium is organized by Cornell students at the College of Veterinary Medicine and is open to students enrolled in various health professional programs at the graduate and undergraduate level. Lonnie King, Director of the National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will offer the keynote address in conjunction with the College's George C. Poppensiek Lecture program, which enhances knowledge about global animal health issues with the community.

A veterinarian, King served as the first director of CDC's Office of Strategy and Innovation before coming to National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases. In 2006, King became a new member of the FDA Scientific Board. He was dean and professor of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, roles he took on in 1996. Before that, he dedicated 20 years of his career to the United States Department of Agriculture. As Administrator for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, he provided executive leadership and direction for ensuring the health and care of animals and plants, to improve agricultural productivity and competitiveness, and to contribute to the national economy and public health. During that period, King also served as the country's chief veterinary officer for five years and worked extensively in global trade agreements within NAFTA and the World Trade Organization.

"Globalization and increased international travel have resulted in diseases spreading around the world faster than the average time it takes for the disease to incubate and cause symptoms. What's more, 75% of these diseases are zoonotic, meaning the infections can be spread from animals to humans. The emergence of new diseases such as SARS and Nipah [a zoonotic virus that has caused disease in animals and in humans through contact with infectious animals like certain species of the fruit bats], as well as the zoonotic potential of highly pathogenic avian influenza strains, highlight the importance of understanding the human-animal interactions required for the control and prevention of zoonotic diseases," said Karen Lopez, president of the College's Veterinary Public Health Association. "One of our goals is to foster communication between medical communities that will form the basis for ongoing dialogue between tomorrow's professionals, those who will be in the best position to control and prevent zoonotic outbreaks."

The symposium will be open to students currently obtaining their doctor of veterinary medicine, doctor of medicine, nursing and master of public health degrees, as well as undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing medical and public health studies. The keynote address, as 2009 George C. Poppensiek Lecture will be open to the general community.This event is organized by Cornell's Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Veterinary Public Health Association.

"We are excited to provide this unique opportunity to students to collaborate with their peers in the health sciences," said Dr. Alfonso Torres, Associate Dean for Public Policy at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Torres also advises the College's Veterinary Public Health Association, a student organization responsible for organizing the event. "Despite a common goal of preventing zoonotic diseases that universally affect patients of all medical professions, both animal and human, there lacks any sort of formal communication and gathering of veterinarians, doctors, nurses, and public health workers that allows for sharing of information on these diseases. Students should come out of the weekend with both a better understanding of diseases shared by humans and animals, and with an appreciation for the necessity of partnerships between all health professionals in preventing and treating zoonoses and handling disease outbreaks."

For more information or to register for the symposium, please visit the zoonotics symposium website.

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