Posted by Bill Osborne

Rotarian Dr. Nelson Atehortua, M.D., Ph.D., M.S. (Dr. A.), Assistant Professor of Environmental and Behavioral Health in Jackson State University’s School of Public Health spoke to the Rotary Club of North Jackson at the club’s July 28, 2020, meeting.  Dr. A. is a bilingual-bicultural public health professional. Born and raised in Colombia, Dr. Atehortua started his professional journey at the School of Medicine, University of Cartagena, Cartagena, Colombia where he graduated as a physician (MD). After combining clinical, administrative, and academic work, he received a Master of Science degree in healthcare management (Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla, Colombia) and began his experiences with public health interventions.

His passion for public health became manifest after realizing that community-level health education, health promotion, and disease prevention approaches can do more to save lives and spare suffering than clinical approaches. After a period of analysis, he decided to immigrate to the U.S. to pursue a Masters in Public Health (MPH degree) with a concentration in Health Education (Western Kentucky University) and a Ph.D. degree in Health Education (Texas A&M University). 

The Subject of Dr. A’s presentation was “COVID-19 updates.” Dr. A. Spoke to the Rotary Club of North Jackson about COVID-19 on March 31, 2020. Thus, the use of update in the title of his presentation. Dr. A. said that he had originally projected that Mississippi would have nearly 4500 COVID-19 deaths. To date, 4 months into the pandemic, there have been 1500 COVID-19 deaths. The pandemic continues in Mississippi. On July 27, 693 new cases were reported as were 6 new deaths. Cases. As of that date, there were 949 people hospitalized with COVID-19 304 in the state’s ICUs, 166 on ventilators, and 230 suspected cases of COVID-19 hospitalized. Cases continue to increase at a rapid rate in the state. Mississippi is the no. 3 COVID-19 hotspot in the country behind Florida and Louisiana based on cases per 100,000 residents. Mississippi has experienced 9,251 new COVID-19 cases in the past 7 days and has experienced a total of 51,097 cases making it the no. 2 state in cases per capita. Ranked on cases per 100,000 residents, Mississippi is no. 13. 

Dr. A. also reported on the results of clinical trials of medications to treat COVID-19. Remdesivir and dexamethasone are progressing as effective treatments. Previously touted hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin and convalescent plasma have shown no advantages as treatments, Actemra and Tamiflu have shown may be some progress, with Colcrys and Ivermectin being too early to call. 

Vaccines are a hot topic with progress on some fronts. The Oxford University  -  Astra Zeneca vaccine has shown good promise in both safety and efficacy and is entering further testing. Similarly, a Chinese vaccine, Cansino, is entering further testing. A vaccine developed by Moderna is also entering further testing based on efficacy and safety findings. It is expected to enter phase 3 testing later this summer. Based on these positive results, a widely available could be available in 2021. 

The bottom line on what Dr. A. reported is that COVID-19 continues to spread and is causing widespread deaths. There are some promising treatments and effective vaccines are proceeding through the development process.

We thank Dr. A for his update and for his work on behalf of Mississippians. The following photo is from his biographical information on the Jackson State website.