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Emerging infectious diseases: Q&A with Michel A. Ibrahim

Defined as the branch of medicine that deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors related to health, epidemiology is a wide-ranging field. Topics that fall under this umbrella range from incarceration and health (discussed in the upcoming 2018 issue) to environmental issues to gun violence.

In recent years, global outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Ebola and Zika have brought epidemiology to the forefront. Because of this, greater importance has been placed on research aimed at understanding both emerging infectious diseases (i.e., those that are newly identified and not know to previously infect humans) and reemerging infectious diseases (i.e., those that were previously identified and brought under control but have now begun to re-infect human populations).

To address this, Epidemiologic Reviews will be accepting review articles that fit the theme of its 2019 issue, “Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Diseases.” We caught up with the current Editor-in-Chief, Michel A. Ibrahim, who kindly shared his thoughts on this theme, the field of epidemiology, and his experience with the Journal in the interview below.

What led you to your field of study?

I was interested in doing research on populations to gather the appropriate evidence for public-health practice and policy making. The field of epidemiology offered a great opportunity to do just that. What interested me in being editor of Epidemiologic Reviews is the Journal’s focus on systematic reviews, with or without meta-analyses, that provide the scientific basis for policy and practice.

What is the topic for the upcoming issue of Epidemiologic Reviews?

Plans for volume 41, which will be published in 2019, are under way. Manuscripts that fit the theme of “Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Diseases” are being solicited under the able editorship of David Celentano, our new Editor-in-Chief.

What led to the selection of this theme in particular?

We believe that the forthcoming theme represents an area of current interest. After consulting with colleagues and taking into account our familiarity with topics of concern, emerging and reemerging infectious diseases seemed to be the topic favored over all others.

Culex mosquitos (Culex quinquefasciatus shown) are biological vectors that transmit West Nile Virus. Photo by CDC/Jim Gathany (2003). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

What is the most important issue in the field of infectious diseases today?

This question is, obviously, related to the previous one. In the past two decades, we have seen numerous outbreaks that have proven challenging to prevent and control. Outbreaks of SARS, chikungunya virus, West Nile virus, MERS, Ebola, and most recently Zika virus have arisen and waned. Other threats include pandemics of dengue fever, malaria, and diseases caused by diarrheal pathogens; in addition, some well-controlled communicable diseases such as measles are returning as childhood vaccines are being rejected by some parents, which places communities at risk.

What developments or findings would you like to see from this call for papers?

This issue will be a compilation of reviews that update and attempt to fill some of the evidence gaps in the epidemiologic literature on emerging and reemerging infectious diseases globally. The overall goal of the issue is to provide timely reviews about the current state of the evidence regarding infectious diseases, including information on new pathogens and issues confronted by health-care epidemiologists (e.g., antibiotic resistance, new control measures, problems encountered with medical devices).

What advice do you have for people interested in submitting to ER?

Read the call for papers and follow the instructions given, do an up-to-date and critical systematic review (and meta-analysis, when appropriate), and be explicit about the search method used.

Featured image credit: clinic-doctor-health-hospital by Pixabay. CC0 public domain via Pexels.

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