A Legend in EPID: Monto

A Legend in EPID: Monto

A cadre of the world’s leading flu experts gathered at SPH in November for the symposium “Influenza as a Global Concern: Where Do We Go From Here?” They came to honor Arnold Monto, the Thomas Francis Jr. Collegiate Professor of Public Health and one of the world’s leading influenza experts. Monto delivered the 36th Thomas Francis Jr. Memorial Lecture, in which he discussed Francis’s legacy in the context of the flu in the 21st century. Monto recalled being recruited by Michigan in 1965 to research infectious disease in the Tecumseh Study, a communitywide study of disease started by Francis. Three years later Hong Kong flu broke out, and Monto vaccinated the majority of children and teens in Tecumseh, eventually showing that “herd immunity”—immunizing a key population involved in transmission—could slow the spread of the virus. Monto’s presentation earned a standing ovation.

Among the speakers at last November’s symposium “Influenza as a Global Concern: Where Do We Go From Here?” was Nancy Cox, director of the Influenza Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and director of the CDC’s World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Control of Influenza. Cox delivered news that was both sobering and hopeful. She told the audience at SPH that despite great strides that have been made by researchers like SPH epidemiologist Arnold Monto and others, “some very real challenges” remain—namely detecting new potentially pandemic strains early enough, and speeding up vaccine production and delivery. But there are two big changes underway that Cox says will improve flu response and vaccine production. First, scientists are hoping to identify new strains two weeks to one month earlier than they do now, which would close the gap between the time the strain is identified and the actual flu season so researchers would have a better handle on what’s actually happening with the virus, she said. The second change is improving vaccine production enough to knock out four to eight weeks of production time. Watch the symposium proceedings.