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Last updated:

March 31, 2000

Global Health Conference

By: Jolene Bracy

Issues impacting world-wide health including the highly contagious Ebola virus strains, genetically modified foods and health care interventions will be debated April 17 at a day-long symposium at UW-River Falls. The event is free and open to the public.

The keynote speakers are Colonels Nancy and Jerry Jaax who are experts in the field of medical defense against chemical and biological agents. Panel discussions will include "Health Care Intervention," by Miriam Harriet Labbok, MD, of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and "Genetically Modified Organisms" by Anne K. Vidaver, professor and head of plant pathology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Gabriela Flora, program associate on agriculture biotechnologies at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis, Minn.

The Jaax's are best known for their work in the successful containment of the 1989 Ebola outbreak in Reston, Va. This outbreak occurred in a quarantine facility among imported monkeys, and is believed to have been spread through airborne particles. There are four known types of the Ebola virus including Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan and Ebola Ivory Coast that have caused deaths among humans. The fourth type, the Ebola-Reston virus was not transmitted to humans. The most recent Ebola outbreak was in 1995 in Zaire. The effects of this disease and others like it have worldwide impact and directly effect the human population in the United States.

The Jaax's will speak on their experiences which became the basis for the best-seller, "The Hot Zone," by Richard Preston and the movie "Outbreak" starring Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo."Outbreak" will be shown from 3-5 p.m. on Wed., April 12, in Room 281 of the Kleinpell Fine Arts building. A second viewing will be from 7-9 p.m. on Thurs., April 13 at the same location.

The worldwide debate regarding the rapidly growing concerns over the use of Genetically Modified Food raises issues about health, environment, ethics and economics. The debates over the human consumption of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) have led to burning of fields in India and rigid labeling concerns in Europe. While this is a major concern overseas, little has been heard about the use of GMO in the U.S. until a 1999 report revealed GMO corn pollen sickens Monarch butterflies. Politically, the U.S. has backed the development and use of GMO in the food supply, and GMO based food has been marketed to consumers with little publicity of public awareness.

The conference schedule includes the following events, all in the Kleinpell Fine Arts Concert Hall: 9-10:30 a.m. -- keynote address by Nancy and Jerry Jaax. 11-noon -- "Health Care Intervention" panel opens with speaker Labbok, MD. 1 p.m. -- GMO discussion with Vidaver and Flora. 2:15 p.m.-- open reception in the Gallery, Fine Arts building. 3:30 p.m. -- student panel.

For more information, contact political science assistant professor Wes Chapin at 715/425-3318.

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