OCSA Champion: Dr. Thomas G. Ksiazek

Meet Thomas G. Ksiazek, D.V.M., Ph.D
Head and shoulder portrait, Tom Ksiazek January 2015
Dr. Ksiazek was an outstanding career U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army veterinarian, having retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after 20 years of active duty service.  Following his military service, Dr. Ksiazek joined and eventually became Chief of Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Special Pathogens Branch, where he coordinated outbreak and control responses to pathogens such as Ebola, Marburg, and SARS.  He is currently a professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and Director of the High Containment Operations Core at the Galveston National Laboratory.

Through his professional life Dr. Ksiazek has been privileged to have served in a number of locations where events presented great opportunities for him to assume significant leadership and responsibility.   A few that particularly come to mind include:

  • He was at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in 1989 when Ebola Reston virus came to the U.S., and he was able to participate in the initial control efforts and the follow-up at the primate facilities in the Philippines.
  • He was a participant in the 1995 re-emergence of Ebola Zaire in Kikwit, Zaire, and he worked on many of the laboratory and field studies that he believes fundamentally informed our understanding of how the virus is transmitted and is best controlled.
  • He led the international team during the laboratory efforts to identify the etiology and implement the public health and animal disease control efforts of the Nipah virus Swine outbreak in Malaysia in 1999.
  • He was deeply involved in laboratory efforts that led to the recognition of the etiological agent of the worldwide outbreak of SARS in 2003.
  • In August of 2014, he led the initial CDC Ebola outbreak control operations providing assistance to the government of Sierra Leone.

Dr. Ksiazek expressed that the Nipah virus Swine outbreak in Malaysia was the most impactful of these experiences for him personally, particularly from a One Health perspective.   The virus had a wildlife reservoir, most likely the Malayan flying fox.  The virus then transferred to domestic pigs and became an epidemic disease within the swine population, spreading around the country because of poor biosecurity between swine operations.  It then infected humans through their direct contact with infected pigs.  Ultimately, the successful control efforts resulted from the critical teamwork amongst the animal and human health professionals and authorities, involving human clinical investigations in conjunction with laboratory testing and surveillance of livestock and wildlife, to determine the spread and the initial source of the virus.

As noted above, Dr. Ksiazek believes it has been his good fortune to be in the right place at the right time on many occasions throughout his professional career.   And in that same manner, he is honored to be recognized by OCSA as a One Health Champion.

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