June 23, 2022
COVID-19, a communicable disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), is a relatively new pandemic in the public eye, but it’s just one of the many infectious diseases epidemiologists like David are naming J .Weber, MD, MPH, are constantly confronted.
“I was at the outbreak of the HIV pandemic, the 2001 anthrax biothreat, the 2003 smallpox vaccine campaign, the 2003 SARS-CoV-1 pandemic, the 2009 H1-N1 flu pandemic, and the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak the UNC,” said Weber, who is a professor of medicine and pediatrics at the UNC School of Medicine and a professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC. “It was never a question of whether we would get another pandemic; it was just a question of when we would see the next one. However, I don’t think we envisioned a pandemic of this duration and severity.”
Weber is one of many researchers and doctors at UNC-Chapel Hill who have taken action to learn more about the virus and how to treat patients and contain its spread. Research has exploded since the pandemic first hit the United States, and there’s no sign of stopping as new variants emerge and society continues to grapple with their impact.
Weber has also just achieved an impressive mark: his 50th publication on coronavirus and COVID-19. His writing series covers a wide variety of topics, from pollution in hospitals and masking in schools to immunization requirements and mental health. His research has played an important role in creating new policies and ways we can protect ourselves and our patients in communities and hospitals.
COVID-19 vaccination as an employment requirement
Weber was the lead author of a cross-society statement on COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment for healthcare workers, published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology in January.
The statement, which recommends that COVID-19 vaccination be a condition of employment for all U.S. healthcare workers, was endorsed by members of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term , supports Care Medicine (AMDA), the Association for Professionals in Epidemiology and Infection Control (APIC) and other associations and societies. So far, the statement has been viewed 5,000 times.
Review and outlook on the pandemic
Another paper in which Weber contributed, this time as a co-author, discussed the lessons hospital epidemiologists have learned from the pandemic and what challenges lie ahead. Around the time of publication, COVID-19 was winding down in the US, giving them time to take note of how doctors have responded, what was and was not going well, and how to establish a “new normal” for the country.
Environmental Diffusion and Masking Studies
dr Weber has also overseen a number of studies into the effectiveness of masks to protect against SARS-CoV-2 inhalation.
ABC Science Collaborative
Weber has also worked with Duke University on their ABC Science Collaborative Program. The program brings together scientists and physicians with school and community leaders to understand the most current and relevant information on transmission of COVID-19 in K-12 schools.
The program helps school leaders make informed decisions about return-to-school, masking and physical distancing, using data from their own communities. This ABC collaboration has resulted in more than five publications on the subject.
COVID-19 in Thailand
Weber has also done important work outside of the United States. He has co-authored a number of articles addressing the impact of COVID-19 prevention and containment in Thailand. Research led by Anucha Apisarnthanarak, MD, Professor and Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Thammasat University Hospital, Thailand.
However, Weber says his contribution to COVID-19 research at UNC is only a small part of the overall research effort. Other physicians from the Department of Infectious Diseases, Gillings School and Eshelman School of Pharmacy have stepped up clinically to help manage the patients and have conducted a tremendous amount of research on COVID-19.
“It’s wonderful to have colleagues I can work with here, too,” said Weber. “It is very exciting and gratifying to be in a place with such excellent colleagues with such a broad interest in infectious diseases.”
However, research cannot be carried out without the help of dedicated frontline workers who put ideas and techniques into practice. Patients with COVID-19 infection, reinfection, or long-term COVID-19 have received excellent care from clinicians, physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, and advanced practice providers throughout North Carolina.
You can see all of his publications in PubMed.
Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphc[email protected]