One Health: New term, Ancient Concept

SEPTEMBER 07, 2016
Laura H. Kahn, MD, MPH, MPP

In September 2001, I was entering the Master’s degree program in public policy at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. I had already earned MD and MPH degrees but felt that a policy degree would enable me to rise higher in government and have a greater influence on public health policy.  I had been working in patient safety and hospital quality oversight at the New Jersey state health department. The work was important but hamstrung by politics. 
 
My plans were turned upside down by the terrorist attacks of September 11th and the subsequent anthrax letter mailings in October of that year.  I decided to dedicate my career to bioterrorism, emerging diseases, and emergency preparedness instead.
 
The 1999 West Nile virus outbreak was also uppermost in my mind. That crisis was notable because two outbreaks had occurred: one in animals and one in humans.   In May 1999, crows began displaying unusual behavior and dying by the thousands in Queens, a borough of New York City. Two months later, people began being hospitalized with neurologic signs and symptoms suggestive of St. Louis encephalitis (SLE), a deadly mosquito-borne disease.
 


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