Flu. Smallpox. Anthrax. Whooping cough. The words represent a veritable murderers' row of infectious agents whose death toll runs in the millions.
Between them and us stand a few small groups of nurses at select institutions around the country, including the University of Rochester Medical Center, who protect the population from such scourges.
The University is one of seven institutions that make up an elite network of centers established by the Federal government to respond to national needs in the area of infectious disease. Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the seven Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Units (VTEUs) supply the nurse power necessary to beat back or altogether prevent infectious disease. The VTEUs assess the safety and effectiveness of potential vaccines; the targets include new diseases, like bird flu; tenacious killers that re-appear every year, like the flu; and even diseases that have been wiped out in nature but could still pose a threat, such as smallpox.