Infectious disease expert to speak Thursday

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What: "The Next Influenza Pandemic: A Harbinger of Things to Come?" part of the Seminars at Steamboat free discussion series

Who: Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy

When: 5 p.m. Thursday

Where: Strings Music Festival Pavilion, at Mount Werner and Pine Grove roads

Online: For more information, visit www.yampavalley.o...

— A nationally known expert on infectious disease will speak in Steamboat Springs on Thursday about the potential of a worldwide influenza pandemic. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, will give a speech titled "The Next Influenza Pandemic: A Harbinger of Things to Come?" as part of the Seminars at Steamboat series.

Osterholm said the speech is targeted at everyone and will cover possible effects on all parts of society.

"Whether you're the CEO of a corporation or the mother of young kids," the topic is applicable, he said.

The speech, from 5 to 6 p.m., is free and open to the public. After the presentation, there will be a question-and-answer period.

Bob Stein, one of the board members for the seminar series, said he expects Osterholm to talk about how communities can prepare for biological events, from the possible pandemic to a bioterrorism attack.

"I think he is going to focus on the flu but recognize that whether it's anthrax or other bioterrorism issues, the real question is how do you prepare for something which you believe is going to happen but you aren't sure exactly when or the extent of what it is going to be," he said.

Osterholm was invited to speak in Steamboat because Stein worked with him on other health policy issues in Washington, D.C., a number of years ago.

Osterholm has published more than 300 papers and abstracts and previously has published papers regarding the possibility of an influenza pandemic in Foreign Affairs magazine and the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the New England Journal of Medicine article, Osterholm writes that the epidemic of 1918 and 1919 killed an estimated 50 million to 100 million people.

"What if the next pandemic were to start tonight?" he writes. "There would be a scramble to stop the virus from entering other countries by greatly reducing or even prohibiting foreign travel and trade. The global economy would come to a halt, and since we could not expect appropriate vaccines to be available for many months and we have very limited stockpiles of antiviral drugs, we would be facing a 1918-like scenario."

Friends of the Seminar - donors who have contributed to the organization - are invited to a dinner with Osterholm after the speech. The public can sign up as Friends of the Seminar at the event or on the group's Web site at www.yampavalley.org/steamboatseminar.asp.

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