Prof. Baron Peter Piot delivers an informative talk as part of the Hyderabad Lecture Series -2019 at the University of Hyderabad, sponsored by IRDAI.

Reputed Belgian microbiologist who co-discovered the EBOLA virus, Professor Baron Peter Piot delivered a lecture on the topic ‘100 Years after the Spanish Flu: Are we ready for the Next Epidemic?’ on 15th March 2019 at the School of Life Sciences auditorium, University of Hyderabad (UoH), as a part of the Hyderabad Lecture Series, 2019 organized by the University of Hyderabad in association with Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI).

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This was the fifth lecture of the series organized with an aim to bring very eminent personalities to lecture on topics of wide interest and contemporary issues.

Prof. Appa Rao Podile, Vice-Chancellor, UoH, welcomed Prof. Piot and also welcomed several scientists, faculties and students present at the venue. Dr. Subhash C. Khuntia, IAS, Chairman of IRDAI and other officials were was also present for this lecture. The Dean i/C of School of Medical Sciences gave a brief on the activities of the school. Prof. B R Shammana of School of Medical Sciences introduced the speaker.

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Prof. Piot, the founding executive director of the UNAIDS organisation and now Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, has been known as a renowned microbiology scientist, a clinician, public health activist and diplomat. His team discovered the Ebola virus during the epidemic in rain forest in Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa in 1976. Piot threw light on history of epidemics and pandemics since Spanish Flu (1918) till date. Ebola, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle-Eastern respiratory syndrome), AIDS, Zika virus, Dengue, Chikungunya, Yellow fever, Nipha virus were few examples. He also explained the dynamics of social, economic & political systems and their impact on dealing with these epidemics.

Prediction of Epidemics:

Early detection of epidemics will be possible with better surveillance and use of artificial intelligence. According to Prof. Piot, zoonosis (infections transmitted to humans from animals), urbanisation, high density population, international travel, climate change, conflict (humanitarian crisis), deforestation, population growth & increased food demand contribute to the risk of exposure to more & more emerging infections in future.

Preparedness to deal with epidemics:

Early detection of epidemic is crucial in containing the epidemic, for which local capacity and rapid support system to respond to disease outbreaks is to be developed. Measures like infection control in Hospitals, action against overuse of antibiotics and vaccine skepticism should be ensured. Research & development of vaccines should be supported.

Active involvement of governments across globe, non-governmental organizations and international organizations like CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation) have been actively involved in epidemic preparedness measures.

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In the end, Prof. Appa Rao honoured Prof. Piot by presenting a shawl and memento. Dr. C T Anita from Medical Sciences proposed the vote of thanks concluding the event. The lecture was webcast live.

About Hyderabad Lecture Series (Sponsored by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI))

The UoH is hosting the Hyderabad Lecture series with an aim to bring very eminent persons to lecture on topics of wide interest and contemporary issues at few locations in the city. Through this lecture series a large cross-section of the society of the city will be exposed to the leading minds of the world, and the format of having several lecture series by one person will enable them to develop a theme. The Hyderabad Lecture Series is sponsored by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI). This endowment made it possible for the Hyderabad citizens to listen to 4 Nobel Laureates so far and this is the 5th lecture in the series.

About Prof. Peter Baron Piot:

Professor Piot is a Belgian microbiologist known for his discovery and research into Ebola and AIDS viruses. After helping discover the Ebola virus in 1976 and leading efforts to contain the first-ever recorded Ebola epidemic that same year, Piot became a pioneering researcher into AIDS. He has held key positions in the United Nations and World Health Organization involving AIDS research and management. Presently he is the Director, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

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