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Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Center opened

The Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Center (PDPC) was officially opened on Friday May 21 at Erasmus MC. Researchers at the PDPC study future virus outbreaks and disasters to be better prepared.

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Chairmen Ernst Kuipers of Erasmus MC, Ed Brinksma of Erasmus University Rotterdam and Tim van der Hagen of TU Delft opened the PDPC at Convergence Square in Erasmus MC. They did this in the presence of the mayor of Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb and the mayor of Delft Marja van Bijsterveldt.

Momentum

The COVID-19 crisis painfully demonstrates how vulnerable our society is to disasters. Climate change and overpopulation are causing more frequent and severe extreme weather events. This is linked to the risk of new infectious diseases, as we have seen in recent decades. The PDPC is turning the momentum of COVID-19 into a sustained investment in scientific and technological innovation.

‘We need to learn lessons from what’s happening now. What can we learn now to be better prepared for future outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases and health threats?’ said professor Marion Koopmans, Head of the Department of Viroscience at the Erasmus MC and initiator of the PDPC.

Research

At the opening, recordings were shown of the researchers affiliated with this knowledge center, in which they explained what kind of research they do in the PDPC and what this collaboration means for their research. Bas Jonkman, Professor of Hydraulic Engineering at TU Delft, researches water disasters, flood risks and the measures to prevent them. ‘Not only designing a safe city now, but also a safe delta city of the future that can withstand disasters and future health risks,’ Jonkman said.

Pearl Dykstra, professor of empirical sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam, led two studies, including one on Pandemic Preparedness for which she and others wrote an advisory report. This study made her decide to join the PDPC. She investigates people’s lives and how they are affected by pandemics and disasters. “The PDPC offers a unique opportunity to collaborate across disciplines,” Dykstra says.

Sewage surveillance

One of the projects together with Erasmus MC, TU Delft, Erasmus University, Knowledge Institute for Water Management (KWR) and the Public Health Service Rotterdam (GGD Rotterdam) is the sewage study. This project was started to gain insight into the circulation of the coronavirus and to be better prepared for virus outbreaks.

A large group of people have mild or no complaints when infected. Only a small group of people with serious symptoms will see their general practitioner or end up in hospital. This is called the infection pyramid. As a result, you miss a large group of people who carry the virus. The sewage research offers opportunities to compare underground data with above-ground data. This allows early warning threats to be measured at KWR and the GGD can then put into practice the models and possible measures that follow from the data.