Saturday, August 12, 2017

New state public-health veterinarian appointed; her responsibility is diseases that spread from animals to humans

Dr. Kelly Giesbrect
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 75 percent of the new diseases that have affected humans over the past 10 years originated from an animal or an animal product. Kentucky has just appointed a new public health veterinarian, Dr. Kelly Giesbrecht, to help protect Kentuckians and the state's animal populations from such diseases.

“We are very pleased to have Dr. Giesbrecht join our staff at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services,” Health Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson said in a news release. “Her wealth of experience in public health and veterinary science is a perfect fit for this extremely important role and will be a tremendous asset to our work to improve the public health of Kentucky.”

Among other things, Giesbrecht is tasked with identifying and evaluating diseases that are spread between animals and humans, called zoonotic diseases.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says every year tens of thousands of Americans get sick from diseases spread between animals and people, which are caused by harmful germs like viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi.

Zoonotics are transmitted in several ways, including direct contact with the body fluid of an infected animal; indirect contact from touching a contaminated surface; being bitten by a tick, flea or mosquito; or eating contaminated food.

Some of the more recognizable ones in the United States are Zika virus, West Nile virus, bird flu (Avian influenza), rabies, cat scratch disease, Lyme disease, E.Coli and Salmonella, though there are many more.

Giesbrecht, who will be part of the Division of Epidemiology and Health Planning in the state's Department of Public Health, will develop policies, guidelines and strategies to control zoonotic and foodborne diseases and share information as needed to health experts and the public.

Giesbrecht comes to the department with over 22 years of combined experience in veterinary medicine and public health. She has a doctorate in veterinarian medicine from the University of Florida and a masters of public health from the University of Texas. After clinical practice, she spent 11 years in the U.S. Air Force as a public health officer and most recently worked at the Northern Kentucky Health Department as a regional epidemiologist.

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