Using Epidemiology to Fight the Coronavirus Pandemic: Building the Ship while Sailing It…

Monday, June 8, 2020 and Tuesday, June 9, 2020 8:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Download the syllabus for this course

Course Description

Despite SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19,being a recently identified virus its rapid spread across the globe within a short space of time is unprecedented as is the rapidity with which virus has been identified, characterised and public health responses mounted including efforts to find a vaccine and treatments. It is one of the biggest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. Notwithstanding its devastating impact on morbidity and mortality rates, on the economy and on society, our knowledge is fairly limited and continues to grow and corrections of knowledge is an ongoing process. Scientific evidence on the virus and the interventions to control it are preliminary but is growing.


In this course, we trace the history and origins of SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan China and its spread to the rest of the world. We reflect on what made it such a serious pandemic and WHO's response and ongoing leadership in shaping the response to COVID-19. Examples of exemplary and less exemplary responses at a country level will be discussed and we conclude with defining the “new normal”.


An interview with Dr. Salim Abdool Karim on 'How South Africa Flattened the Curve':

Course Objectives

The course objectives include:


  1. Understanding the epidemiology of Covid-19
  2. Generating meaningful metrics to monitor the evolving epidemic even as responses and tools to mitigate it are being established
  3. Covering principles of active and passive surveillance
  4. Evaluating diagnostic tools for screening and case management
  5. Sharing basic “shoe-leather” epidemiological principles in understanding and investigating epidemic outbreaks including undertaking household surveys in the midst of an epidemic
  6. Monitoring impact of Covid-19 interventions Barriers to an effective response
  7. Importance of consistent communication and engaging the public


The course will be delivered through four semi-structured interactive sessions that allow for discussion and debate. There will be no readings. All powerpoint presentations used will be shared with the class.


Session 1: Deciphering the source of the first cases in Wuhan: a seafood market and pangolins


Session 2: What made SARS-CoV-2 such a serious pandemic?


Session 3: What not to do in responding to COVID-19 – experiences of Italy, UK and USA


Session 4: Approaches to preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 – experiences of China, South Korea and South Africa



Course Reading List

There are no readings for this course.


Salim Abdool Karim, MBCHB, PhD

Salim Abdool Karim, MBCHB, PHD is a clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist who is widely recognized for his scientific contributions to HIV prevention and treatment. He is Director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and CAPRISA Professor of Global Health in Epidemiology at Columbia University. He has adjunct professorships at KwaZulu-Natal, Cornell and Harvard universities. His clinical research on TB-HIV treatment has shaped international guidelines on the clinical management of co-infected patients. He co-led the CAPRISA 004 tenofovir gel trial that provided proof-of-concept that antiretrovirals prevent sexually transmitted HIV infection. The finding was ranked among the “Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs of 2010” by Science. This approach, using tenofovir containing pills, is currently promoted for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) by UNAIDS and WHO. Dr Abdool Karim is ranked among the World’s most cited scientists by Web of Science. He serves on the Boards of several journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet Global Health, Lancet HIV and mBio. He is the Chair of the UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel, WHO’s HIV Strategic and Technical Advisory Committee as well as the WHO TB-HIV Task Force.  His many awards include Columbia University’s “Allan Rosenfield Alumni Award for Excellence” and the African Union’s “Kwame Nkrumah Award”, the most prestigious scientific award in Africa. He is a member of the US National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Microbiology and the Association of American Physicians. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Quarraisha Abdool Karim, PhD

Quarraisha Abdool Karim, PhD is an infectious diseases epidemiologist who has focused for the past 30 years on HIV infection in adolescent girls and young women. She is a South African infectious diseases epidemiologist, who is Associate Scientific Director of CAPRISA.  She is a Professor in Clinical Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, USA. She is also a Professor in Public Health at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South Africa. Her research has garnered several thousand citations, including her findings on tenofovir gel that have more than 2000 citations. She is an Editor of the 6th and 7th Editions of the Oxford University Textbook on Global Public Health, which is one of the most widely used textbooks used to teach public health throughout the world.  She is the co-editor of a book on HIV/AIDS in South Africa (Cambridge University Press), which is used as a reference text in South Africa and a book on HIV Clinical Trials (Springer). She is on the Editorial Board of AIDS and the Journal of the International AIDS Society. She is the UNAIDS Ambassador for Adolescents and HIV and co-chairs the UNAIDS Advisory Group to the Executive Director, member of the PEPFAR Scientific Advisory Board, the Icipe Governing Council, and the Editorial Board of AIDS and JIAS. She is a member of the US National Academy of Medicine and a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, the Academy of Science of South Africa, the African Academy of Sciences, and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS).

Course Fee

Late registration discount before May 1, 2020: $500.00
After May 1, 2020: $500.00


The registration period has closed for this event.


Zoom Webinar


The Zoom link for this live webinar course will be made available to course registrants prior to the start of class.

Share This