Cholera is an acute watery diarrheal illness caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Although readily controlled by provision of clean water and adequate sanitation, cholera still causes about 100,000 deaths annually, almost all in populations living in poverty. Traditionally, cholera epidemiology was thought to be driven almost exclusively by human to human transmission. More recently, it has come to be appreciated that cholera vibrios are autochthonous to coastal waters and estuaries, in association with zooplankton, and that climatic factors play a major role in determining temporal and spatial patterns of this disease. The global burden of cholera has shown no evidence of decreasing in recent years, and may even be increasing. There is evidence that climate change may be influencing this trend. Important interventions to prevent cholera now include new generation oral cholera vaccines, which, in conjunction with even modest improvements of water, hygiene, and sanitation in developing country settings, may exert a major salutary effect in reducing the disease burden.
Dr. Clemens’ scientific career has focused on global health and has spanned academia, the US government, and international organizations. Trained as an internist and clinical epidemiologist, he has been on the medical faculties of Yale and the University of Maryland ; served as an epidemiologist at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Diseases, Bangladesh; led the Epidemiology Branch and the WHO Collaborating Centre for the Clinical Evaluation of Vaccines in Developing Countries at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at NIH; and was the founding Director General of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul, Korea. In 2010, he was the recipient of the Sabin Gold Medal for excellence in vaccine sciences. He joined the UCLA faculty in 2011, and currently is a Professor of Epidemiology and the Founding Director of the Center for Global Infectious Diseases at the UCLA School of Public Health.