Newswise — Michael Vahey, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, researches viruses and the mechanisms and circumstances that make them more or less capable of reaching pandemic status. 

Vahey is available via email: mvahey@wustl.edu 

In this video, Vahey explains the properties of a virus that allow it to spread so rapidly across the world, reaching pandemic status:

  • Viruses that become pandemics are usually zoonotic in nature; they have made the leap from non-human animals into humans.
  • Once in humans, viruses need to be able to survive and thrive in their new environment if they are to reach pandemic status.
  • Pandemic viruses also need to be able to spread efficiently from human to human in order to infect people around the globe.

Vahey also offers some advice for predicting and preparing for emerging pandemics.

He is scheduled to speak Feb. 26 in Thailand at a National Institutes of Health Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Pacific Rim.