Biodefense PhD Graduate Presents Dissertation to the Transportation Research Board

Dr. Nereyda Sevilla (’17), a biodefense PhD program graduate from the Schar School of Policy and Government, presented the results of her dissertation at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) 97th Annual Meeting held January 7–11, 2018, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The information-packed program attracted more than 13,000 transportation professionals from around the world. The meeting program covered all transportation modes, with more than 5,000 presentations in nearly 800 sessions and workshops, addressing topics of interest to policy makers, administrators, practitioners, researchers, and representatives of government, industry, and academic institutions.

Nereyda’s poster entitled “Germs on a Plane: The Transmission and Risks of Airplane-Borne Diseases” was part of the Young Professional’s Research in Aviation Session. Her research explored the role of air travel in the spread of infectious diseases, specifically Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), H1N1, Ebola, and pneumonic plague. She concluded that modeling showed that the spread of Ebola and pneumonic plague is minimal and should not be a major air travel concern if an individual becomes infected. On the other hand, H1N1 and SARS have higher infectious rates, and air travel will facilitate disease spread across the country.

Nereyda presented several recommendations to the transportation industry, including establishing preventative measures at airports, capturing contact information for ticketed passengers, expanding the definition of “close contact,” and conducting widespread educational programs. The measures will put in place a foundation for containing the spread of infectious diseases via air travel and minimize the panic and economic consequences that may occur during an outbreak.

Nereyda’s research was sponsored by an Airport Cooperative Research Program Grant.

Learn more about graduate programs in biodefense at the Schar School.