U-M disease transmission experts prepared to address Michigan’s first bird flu cases

June 9, 2015
Written By:
Laurel Thomas


As the state of Michigan responds to its first cases of the bird flu, the University of Michigan has experts who can talk about this flu and infectious disease transmission.

Officials reported Monday that three Canada Goose goslings found in Macomb County had tested positive for the virus. The infected birds were in Sterling Heights.

Influenza H5N2 has been found in 20 other states, primarily impacting chicken and turkey producers in the Midwest. More than 200 farms have lost 47 million birds since March, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The bird flu can infect both free-range and domestic poultry but is not considered a risk to humans.

Dr. Arnold Monto, the Thomas Francis Jr. Collegiate Professor of Epidemiology, is an internationally known expert who can discuss transmission, prevention, mitigation and social response to outbreaks and pandemic planning. This includes transmission modes.

“Chickens in states such as Iowa were infected by this kind of bird flu from migratory birds,” he said. “That is why this finding in geese may be of great concern to domestic poultry in Michigan. However, there is no evidence that this particular virus poses a danger to humans. That could change, which is why careful surveillance is necessary.”

Contact Monto: 734-764-5453, [email protected]. Bio: myumi.ch/JyKZM


Marisa Eisenberg, assistant professor of epidemiology, has a background in mathematical biology and in developing parameter estimation techniques to connect math models and disease data. She is part of a group of scientists from around the country who are involved with the Modeling Infectious Disease Agents Study, an NIH-funded program that focuses on infectious disease transmission modeling.

Her recent research has been primarily in modeling infectious diseases, particularly examining cholera and waterborne disease in Haiti, Thailand and Africa, and Ebola in West Africa. Some current areas of interest include: mathematical modeling, infectious diseases, cholera and waterborne diseases, cancer modeling, networks and complexity.

“H5N2 avian influenza virus infections have recently been reported in wild and domestic birds in several US states, so it’s not completely surprising to find infections in wild birds here in Michigan,” Eisenberg said. “The risk to humans from these infections is currently low, but it’s important to continue good surveillance.”

Contact Eisenberg: 734-763-2991, [email protected]. Bio: myumi.ch/6QAPY


Dr. Eden Wells, clinical associate professor of epidemiology and director of the Preventive Medicine Residency at the School of Public Health, has research interests in emerging infectious disease threats, applied epidemiology and public health practice, including preparedness planning for public health emergency events. In addition, she recently was appointed chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Addressing the threat to humans and the safety of food systems, Wells said: “If you adequately cook your food, you should avoid any foodborne disease from meat. And, as always with poultry, you have to wash hands and food surfaces as well and not cross-contaminate. Many agencies partner together to protect communities from infections such as H5N2. The Department of Agriculture is surveilling chicken farms to keep infected birds from entering the food chain, and public health is monitoring human health.”

Contact Wells: 734-647-5306, [email protected]. Bio: myumi.ch/6kxwd