Our Global Voices Posts

Continuing to Fight, 10 Years and 12 Outbreak Responses Later

Posted on by Joseph Conrad Ojwang, MD, MPH, Health Security Public Health Specialist, CDC Uganda
Joseph C. Ojwang, Health Security Public Health Specialist, CDC Uganda
Joseph C. Ojwang, Health Security Public Health Specialist, CDC Uganda

When I heard COVID-19 was spreading around the world, I struggled personally, knowing we would be responding for a long time. I needed a silver lining to keep me grounded and give me hope so that I could focus on helping my country.

As COVID-19 spread across Europe, it was clear that COVID-19 was going to be a very different threat to Uganda. It was not like Zika or Ebola, with African names that Ugandans were familiar with. This was the pandemic the world has always feared but was not prepared for. But, for me, the silver lining was that the virus had not yet arrived in Uganda and we had some time to prepare.

Each outbreak prepares us for the next one as we build new skills and apply them. Each response builds on the next, and responding to outbreaks is a never ending task for public health workers. This became very evident as we were working Ebola and along came COVID-19.

I proudly serve as a first responder on the National Rapid Response Team, under Uganda’s National Task Force. I watch for signs of emergencies and prepare to take the call and respond immediately. Our team is trained and prepared to support all aspects of a public health response, including quickly identifying cases, tracing contacts, collecting and analyzing data, collecting and testing samples, and making recommendations for public health action. My CDC team works closely with the government of Uganda and other partners.

But my team also had concerns about getting sick with COVID-19, which added to the stress of working on an emergency response. We were all concerned for our friends and our family, so the pandemic was deeply personal to us. I worried about my wife, children, siblings, parents, and my workmates. I was dealing with a lockdown, a new team, and new habits, like wearing masks. Juggling personal concerns and a demanding, stressful job was one of the biggest challenges I have faced. However, years of training and responding to emergencies made me better prepared to respond to the pandemic and gave me some hope, my silver lining.

My team kept me strong and motivated. Ugandans are a resourceful, resilient, and united people. Our resilience allows us to continue to this fight for our communities. Together, the country has worked to slow the spread of COVID-19 and made our job of managing COVID-19 possible.

Infectious Disease Institute
OJ (red checked shirt), with colleagues from CDC and the Infectious Disease Institute, in a meeting to support Uganda’s COVID-19 Response and Ebola Preparedness Activities.

This pandemic has taught me how important it is to take care of myself. I make it a priority to stay active. When I can, I wander off to become a better animal keeper and enjoy nature. I have also learned to focus on things that I had once forgotten, including a few old house projects.

This pandemic is affecting everyone. My family and I continue to take measures to protect ourselves from COVID-19. We wash our hands often and wear masks around others. We have avoided crowds, social events, and other activities that involve close contact. I haven’t even been to the  barber since the pandemic began. Keeping social connections is important, so we talk a lot to family members virtually. Technology has allowed us and the world to stay connected.

Ugandans continue to survive and our community stays strong. We will survive this pandemic. Maybe that’s the ultimate silver lining.

Posted on by Joseph Conrad Ojwang, MD, MPH, Health Security Public Health Specialist, CDC UgandaLeave a comment

Chagas disease in the United States: We’ve made lots of progress, but our work is not done

I have seen many important and positive changes around Chagas disease awareness, diagnosis, and treatment over the past few years, but there is still much to do.  Chagas disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. Chagas disease is usually spread by triatomine bugs but can also be spread by an infected mother to her unborn baby. It can lead to serious heart disease and, less often, Read More >

Posted on by Susan P. Montgomery, DVM, MPH, Veterinary Medical Officer, CDC, Center for Global Health, Division of Parasitic Diseases and MalariaLeave a comment

Together We Can Survive

When I first heard COVID-19 was spreading around the world, my initial thought was, “This will be contained.” I started feeling unsettled watching the virus give us a hint of its power as it breeched more and more borders. I never imagined that it would cause havoc at the scale it did. I wanted to Read More >

Posted on by Deepika Srivastava Joshi, MPH, Associate Director for Science (CDC India), Lead – Surveillance and EpidemiologyLeave a comment

“The Human Element”

Rachael’s work in Bangladesh took place August – September 2019, before COVID-19 emerged. The setting was ideal. We were on the top floor of a hotel where a training was being held in the Fall of 2019. Our chairs overlooked the expansive beach of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and we had just finished a light snack Read More >

Posted on by Rachael Zacks, MD, CDC EIS officerLeave a commentTags ,

To Switzerland and Back…..Communicating About COVID-19

As a health communication responder, my first thought when I heard of COVID-19 was, “What can I do to help? How can I be a part of the emergency response happening with such a novel disease?” After CDC activated its Emergency Operation Center in January 2020, I worked with my supervisor to secure a spot Read More >

Posted on by Leah Dick, MPH, CHES, Health Communication SpecialistLeave a commentTags

A Steep Learning Curve, Then COVID-19 Hits Home

I’ve worked as a health communication specialist on the COVID-19 response for the past year. In Japan, I translated CDC guidance into plain language so Americans quarantined on a cruise ship would understand  the information needed to board a U.S. flight home. In Atlanta, I managed the process to publish international guidance on the CDC Read More >

Posted on by Elizabeth Kurylo, MCM, CCPH, Health Communication SpecialistLeave a commentTags

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Smallpox Eradication and Learning from its Success

A map illustrating the timeline for global smallpox eradication.

This year, 2020, the world is commemorating the 40-year anniversary of the declaration of the eradication of smallpox. Considered to be the greatest achievement in international public health to date, we have many lessons learned from this monumental achievement that today’s public health professionals can apply to current and future disease outbreak efforts across the Read More >

Posted on by Inger Damon, MD, PhD, FIDSA, Director, Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases and Rebecca Martin, PhD, Director, Center for Global HealthLeave a commentTags ,

One Health – A Comprehensive Approach To Preventing Disease, Saving Lives

For as long as people have lived with – and in close proximity to – animals, the benefit of that reality has come with a serious trade-off… the potential for disease. That reality also explains why a One Health approach is used at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify and minimize the Read More >

Posted on by CAPT Casey Barton Behravesh MS, DVM, DrPH, DACVPM3 CommentsTags ,

CDC Tanzania and partners: Ensure HIV services amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a series of unique structural, logistical, and program challenges related to routine HIV prevention, testing, and treatment services in Tanzania. To better protect healthcare workers and people living with HIV (PLHIV), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Government of Tanzania (GoT), non-governmental partners, and healthcare facilities Read More >

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Voices from the Field: An interview with Anita Beukes, Laboratory Advisor

How is COVID-19 testing conducted in Namibia? Namibia is using semi-automated and automated platforms to conduct viral tests for COVID-19 (molecular real time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction [RT-PCR]). Testing is conducted at the government laboratories (Namibia Institute of Pathology), as well as at the University of Namibia, and in the private sector (Pathcare and a Read More >

Posted on by Anita Beukes1 CommentTags