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Parasitologist for the People

Posted on by Adrienne Lefevre, MPH, CHES

LT Knipes chats with school children who have been enrolled and are waiting to be tested for lymphatic filariasis and malaria in Nord Est Department, Haiti.

LT Knipes processes blood samples outside a rural classroom in Haiti’s Nord Est department. The blood samples were tested for lymphatic filariasis and malaria.
LT Knipes processes blood samples outside a rural classroom in Haiti’s Nord Est department. The blood samples were tested for lymphatic filariasis and malaria.

Global health emergencies are a constant in today’s world. In recent years, we have seen the impact of natural disasters, mass migrations, famines, conflicts, and more. When there are large population movements, we see rapid spread of infectious disease. When there is famine, those affected have a compromised immune system, allowing them to contract illnesses easier. For these reasons it is vital that public health staff from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is on the scene. While we cannot always control the causes and breadth of these emergencies, we can minimize the negative public health impact.

CDC experts have served those most affected by emergencies for many years. CDC promotes positive health outcomes, understanding that a disease threat anywhere is a disease threat everywhere. Our humanitarian health experts are consistently on the frontlines of global health emergencies to protect Americans.

August 19 is World Humanitarian Day, a day to recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by humanitarian workers around the world, including CDC responders. Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer Lieutenant Alaine K. Knipes, a parasitologist by training, is one of CDC’s devoted humanitarian health experts. Alaine’s extensive background in parasites has allowed her to address neglected tropical diseases, such as lymphatic filariasis, while at CDC. While parasites are still Alaine’s primary research interest, her passion for detecting diseases led her to emergency response and recovery work as an EIS officer.

Alaine on assignment in Guinea, boarding a UN humanitarian flight headed back to Conakry after a month in the field
Alaine on assignment in Guinea, boarding a UN humanitarian flight headed back to Conakry after a month in the field

Most of Alaine’s current work involves water, sanitation and hygiene, a vital public health issue. Our world’s water crises necessitate experts who can address waterborne diseases and sanitation issues that threaten the public’s health. Even though the hours are long and exhausting, Alaine is happy to answer the call to action, “In the US we have the knowledge and tools to protect ourselves and our families from many diseases. However, outside the US, obstacles to health and quality of life are often related to challenges in accessing safe drinking water and transmission of infectious diseases. “I love my work at the CDC because, by assisting other countries in responding to disease outbreaks, I am applying my scientific training and expertise to keep Americans safe and healthy.”

Besides being a disease detective, Alaine is also an award-winning photographer whose images are used to promote public health awareness and highlight program successes. Her photographs are part of the CDC’s photography collection and are on permanent display at two of the CDC’s Atlanta campuses. Her ability to share both the successes and challenges of her public health work through a visual medium has been especially meaningful, “Many of us can’t comprehend some of the situations that CDC responders encounter. Being able to share the austere conditions, and also the public health successes made by CDC and local partners, has meant a lot to me.”

One of Alaine's winning photos, taken in Haiti
One of Alaine’s winning photos, taken in Haiti

Please join CDC in thanking Alaine and health professionals across the globe for their contributions to protecting the health, safety and security of people around the world.

Posted on by Adrienne Lefevre, MPH, CHESTags , , , ,

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