Professor authors book chapter on historical disparities in rabies prevention 

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Amira Roess

Professor in George Mason University’s College of Public Health Amira Roess, along with Sergio Recuenco from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Peru and Kis Robertson, who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, authored “Historical Disparities in Health: Rabies Surveillance, Risk Factors and Prevention,” a chapter in a new book about the history of the disease in the Americas. A History of Rabies in the Americas: From the Pre-Columbian to the Present, Volume I (edited by Charles E. Rupprecht) examines the history and current state of rabies in the Americas and analyzes the long-term cultural, social, and economic impacts of the disease. 

“It is important to periodically review the history of neglected disease, so that we can better understand the stage upon which the present-day epidemiologic context of disease unfolds, particularly as it relates to the generational legacy of health disparities in the Americas,” said Roess. “Rabies presents an example of how racism was engrained in the establishment of every facet of the Americas and how present-day structural racism affects each aspect of disease transmission and control.”    

Roess’s chapter discusses how rabies is a neglected disease because of who it affects, primarily poorer, indigenous, black, minority, rural inhabitants, and those who come into close contact with suspect wildlife and domestic animals. She examines a broader context of the disease, including how the structural racism of colonialism in the Americas has led to persistent disparities in every facet of life, including disease surveillance, basic health education, national policies, and tangible health care access and delivery. 

Roess specializes in infectious diseases, especially reducing the transmission of diseases that spread between animals and humans, including coronaviruses like MERS-CoV and SAR-CoV-2, the latter of which causes COVID-19. She worked on mpox and other viruses when she served as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer at the CDC’s Poxvirus and Rabies Branch. While working at the Centers for Disease Control, Roess authored several papers about the oral rabies vaccine. 

Kis Robertson, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Public Health Science (OPHS) Food Safety and Inspection Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Sergio Recuenco, faculty at the Medicine at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Peru, are co-authors on the chapter.