On April 19, Albion College hosted Laurie Garrett as the keynote speaker for the Elkin R. Isaac Research Symposium. Her presentation was titled “H5N1, the ‘public’ and Public Health.”
Garrett discussed the the flu epidemic, biomedical terrorist attacks, the lack of regulation in high-risk biological labs and the financial crises in world health. She also focused on animal to human transfer of disease, called zoonosis.
“What really is key is that we’re asking the people of the poor world to make all the sacrifices to protect us,” Garrett said. “They are killing their chickens when an infection is found, and they don’t get reimbursed. They go into poverty. They are the ones that are paying the price trying to protect the rest of the world from this horrible zoonotic possibility.”
Additionally, she emphasized the need for more investment in global health, citing the Obama administration’s goal to cut global health spending by three to five per cent.
“We need real global governance, but we don’t have it right now,” Garrett said.
Garrett explained the need for higher security around bio safety level-four laboratories (BSL4s), which house dangerous bacteria and viruses.
“Inside every one of these laboratories are precisely the organisms that we are worried about,” Garrett said. “What we’ve done is move from a finite number of people who have access to those organisms to thousands of them.”
She believes there should be an increase in federal regulation.
“We have not secured the perimeters around most of them [BSL4s],” Garrett said. “They’re not set up in situations with high security, like the Centers for disease Control one is, and worse yet, we don’t have any federal agency to keep track of them all.”