Swine flu efforts have student support
The University of Adelaide has been commissioned to help the SA Health Department in documenting the spread of swine flu in South Australia.
Three postgraduate students in the Discipline of Public Health have spent one day a week monitoring data supplied by local medical practitioners about suspected and confirmed swine flu patients.
Dr Muhammad Aziz Rahman, Dr Nathanaelle Theriault and Mr George Mnatzaganian all have a background in public health and welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the spread of the H1N1 influenza pandemic.
The qualified doctors are not involved in a clinical sense, but provide assistance to SA Health by cross checking data with doctors, patients, clinics and hospitals and tracking the progress of individual cases.
Dr Rahman, a medical graduate from Bangladesh who has a Masters degree in Public Health, started his PhD at the University of Adelaide in February under Professor Konrad Jamrozik, Head of the School of Population Health and Clinical Practice.
"After completing my Masters I worked in the public health field in Afghanistan for eight months before returning to Bangladesh to work for an international research organisation, monitoring various outbreaks including the avian flu," Dr Rahman said.
"This opportunity to learn more about the spread of swine flu and also the South Australian public health system has been invaluable. Hopefully it will stand me in good stead, job-wise, when I finish my PhD," he said.
Dr Theriault is a public health physician from Quebec who secured a 12-month research position at the University of Adelaide in October 2008, working on an HIV project supervised by Dr Peng Bi and Professor Janet Hiller.
"This kind of pandemic (swine flu) does not happen every day and for a public health practitioner it presents a great learning opportunity," Dr Theriault said. "When I return to Canada in November we will be going into our winter so my experience here should be invaluable.
"So far, this infection has not been too severe in South Australia, but the surveillance is very important. We have to check with infected people to see whether they recover quickly or if they develop complications, and if the pattern of illness changes over time. This gives us a better understanding of the pandemic," Dr Theriault said.
Mr Mnatzaganian, an Armenian Israeli, is a PhD candidate in the Discipline of Public Health under the supervision of Professor Jamrozik and Professor Philip Ryan.
For many years he has worked as a research coordinator, assessing data among hospitalised patients.
Mr Mnatzaganian said it was important to learn more about the epidemiology of the H1N1 virus in vulnerable populations.
"Policy makers and health professionals need to concentrate on pregnant women, people with chronic respiratory illnesses and others with immune-deficiencies. These are the people who are more likely to develop serious complications from the swine flu," he said.
Dr Rahman said it was too early to predict the end of this pandemic. "It is evolving on a daily basis but if we can be useful we are happy to keep helping out."
Story by Candy Gibson