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Infectious Disease Experts Discuss Facts of Ebola

Published December 5, 2014

Alan J. Lesse, MD, and John A. Sellick Jr., DO, associate professors of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, presented the latest information about the Ebola virus outbreak at a Mini Medical School lecture, a free public talk.

“The presentation answered all the questions I had about Ebola. It’s nice that these lectures can give us — in an understandable way — exactly what we need to know.”
Jacienta Paily
Second-year UB medical student

History, Misconceptions, Infection Control

Lesse and Sellick discussed the symptoms Ebola causes, its transmission and its history. They also covered public awareness, media misconceptions and medical professionals’ efforts to handle the outbreak.

“This is not an easy virus to get,” Sellick stressed, noting that the secondary attack rate for Ebola virus is only about 16 percent. People most likely to contract the virus are those living with and having physical contact with Ebola patients, Sellick explained.

He emphasized that Thomas Eric Duncan — the patient with the first Ebola diagnosis in the United States — did not spread the virus to any of his household contacts.

During a question-and-answer session, the presenters addressed:

  • the combination of factors that cause death in Ebola patients
  • why this current outbreak is more widespread than previous outbreaks
  • the likelihood of becoming symptomatic once the virus is contracted
  • Ebola research and the potential for vaccines
  • the local sites — Erie County Medical Center and Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo — prepared to treat Ebola patients

UB Specialists Are Valuable Sources of Information

“As physicians on the front lines of addressing this ever-evolving outbreak, Lesse and Sellick are extremely valuable sources of information,” said Roseanne C. Berger, MD, senior associate dean for graduate medical education, who directs Mini Medical School.

Crystal Han and Jacienta Paily, second-year UB medical students who attended the Nov. 18 talk, said they would recommend Mini Medical School lectures to other students. 

“The lecture was helpful, and it's information I'm interested in,” said Paily.

“It's important to stay current about issues people care about,” she emphasized. “The doctors who present at these lectures are experts in their fields, so I like that we can get the most accurate, up-to-date details from them.”

Lesse also is vice chair for education in the Department of Medicine and chief of infectious disease at the Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System (VAWNYHS). 

Sellick, a hospital epidemiologist for VAWNYHS and Kaleida Health, also is a staff physician for UB Student Health Services.

Lectures Supplement Students’ Training

Although Mini Medical School lectures are geared toward people without medical backgrounds, UB medical students take advantage of the opportunity to broaden their knowledge in important areas.

“Because I'm a medical student, my friends come to me with questions about Ebola that I don’t know how to answer,” said Han.

“The presentation answered all the questions I had about Ebola,” Paily noted. “It's nice that these lectures can give us — in an understandable way — exactly what we need to know.”

“We’ve had Drs. Sellick and Lesse as professors, and that was part of what motivated us to attend this Ebola talk,” said Han. “In class, they consistently present their material well.”

“They’ve taught us in several of our modules, and they are good, knowledgeable  professors,” she added. “Our experience with them has been positive.”

A Taste of Medical School for the Community

UB’s Mini Medical School presents informal lectures as a public service for anyone 16 and older. “The talks are part of the UB medical school’s continued commitment to the community,” Berger said. 

“Because the lectures are by medical professors, they give people a little taste of what it’s like to attend medical school at UB,” said Han.