Research

The Ecologist of Infectious Diseases

Looking at the riskiest factors of COVID-19 transmission

Looking at the riskiest factors of COVID-19 transmission

Michael Emch has spent decades tracking the spread of infectious diseases in human populations around the world. Now he is confronting what it means to teach and conduct research during a pandemic.

In late February, as the first reports of COVID-19 cases started to spring up across the country, Emch was beginning a unit on emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases with 50 undergraduate students in his “Health and Medical Geography” class.

Using routine data collected by UNC Health, LabCorp and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Emch and his students will be able to map the percentage of people in central North Carolina who have been tested by census unit.

“Teaching about infectious diseases in the middle of a pandemic — well, it’s been an interesting learning opportunity,” Emch said. “I don’t think I’ve ever taught classes where more engagement was happening.”

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