Expert in Emerging Special Pathogens Responds to Pandemic

    June 4, 2020
    “Preparation for emerging special pathogens has been a large focus of my career in medicine."

    Alex Isakov, M.D., MPH ’87 is a professor of emergency medicine and the executive director of the Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) at Emory University in Atlanta. 

    “Preparation for emerging special pathogens has been a large focus of my career in medicine,” he said.

    In 2014, he and his team at Grady EMS, the city of Atlanta’s 911 ambulance service, transported the first person brought to the United States who was confirmed to have Ebola Virus Disease.

    He was subsequently a lead contributor for the EMS Infectious Disease Playbook published by the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Technical Resources and Information Exchange (TRACIE).

     He is now busy responding to COVID-19.

    “In the early days of the pandemic, my colleagues and I recognized the need to assist the public to find guidance about their signs and symptoms of illness, and how best to seek evaluation and care," said Dr. Isakov.

    They adapted SORT, a tool that they had developed and implemented for the 2009 influenza pandemic, and created Available for free to the public, this tool steers people to relevant CDC guidance, helps those who need emergency care to seek it immediately, and advises others with mild symptoms to seek an evaluation while maintaining social and physical distancing.

    “In addition to educating the public, this tool can also provide real-time epidemiologic data that can help to identify community hotspots and inform potentially life-saving public health interventions,” said Dr. Isakov.

    The tool is available in over 30 languages.  

    Dr. Isakov also is the Emergency Medical Services lead for the National Emerging Special Pathogens Training and Education Center (NETEC), a federally funded program that provides education, training and expert consultation to the health care community about high consequence infectious diseases like COVID-19. He contributes weekly as a panelist for the National COVID-19 Grand Rounds hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

    Locally, in Atlanta, as the executive director of CEPAR, he engages daily with inter-disciplinary teams that are forging Emory University’s response to the pandemic, with “a laser focus on health and safety,” he said.

    As the Director of Emory’s Section of Prehospital and Disaster Medicine in his academic department, he leads a team of emergency medicine and EMS physicians who serve the community as medical directors for 911 call centers, emergency responders and ground and air ambulances, all on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Dr. Isakov also serves on the frontline himself, seeing patients in the Emory University Hospital Emergency Department. 

    “These are trying times for everyone,” Isakov said. “It’s a privilege to work with caring colleagues, skilled teams and to be part of a community that is committed to making a difference in people’s lives.”

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