Name: Elena Anatolyevna Mikhaylova
Background: Medical Doctor, graduate of the Leningrad Sanitary-Hygienic Medical Institute (now the Saint Petersburg State Medical Academy named after I.I. Mechnikov)
Title: Head of the Epidemiological Surveillance Department
Organization: Directorate of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being (Rospotrebnadzor) in Leningrad oblast
What are your responsibilities at the Directorate of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being in Leningrad oblast?
Being the head of the epidemiological surveillance department, I am managing current issues and the activities of epidemiologists in the regional branches of the Directorate. Our department is responsible for interactions between executive and legislative authorities in the region and with institutions, enterprises and organizations in relation to a range of questions addressing surveillance of infectious and parasitic diseases. The main goal of our department is to plan and take preventive measures in order to provide control and surveillance of infectious and parasitic diseases. We also participate in the investigation of clustered cases and outbreaks of infectious and parasitic diseases. Another important function of our department is to control the organization and implementation of immunoprophylaxis against infectious diseases and to ensure the supply of medical immunobiological preparations to medical institutions in accordance with the National Schedule of Immunization and Vaccination for Epidemic Indications. We ensure the proper conditions for registration, storage and transport of immunobiological preparations. In addition, we conduct retrospective and current analysis of the incidence of various infectious and parasitic diseases and immunization status. We develop plans and target-oriented programs for prevention of infectious and parasitic diseases.
What motivated you to devote yourself to infectious disease epidemiology?
When I graduated from the institute, the profession of epidemiologist was considered one of the most prestigious among other sanitary specialties. I was lucky to start my career in epidemiology from my first working day. The knowledge and experience that I have acquired through many years of work have had a great impact upon my life and personal interests.
Which of your professional achievements brings you the most satisfaction?
In 1993 I conducted an epidemiological investigation of a major outbreak of nosocomial infections among puerperant women and new-born children in a maternity hospital in Krasnodar territory. We identified the etiology of the disease and transmission routes. Emergency measures were taken and the outbreak was curbed. When I worked in the south of Russia, I often took part in tackling outbreaks of infectious diseases, especially during the summer.
What was your most difficult professional moment?
Leningrad oblast is an endemic area for tick-borne infections. Every year 6-8 thousand patients bitten by ticks seek medical attention. With the growth of ticks’ activity in the natural reservoirs and the increase in number of vectors and their viral infectivity, tick-borne infections are becoming more wide-spread.
Despite the complex epidemiological situation and the risk of tick-borne encephalitis, immunization coverage against tick-borne encephalitis remains rather low (less than 2% of the population). While primarily people who are at a professional risk of being infected are vaccinated, our intensive information campaign targets immunization of population against tick-borne encephalitis.
What do you think are the most important achievements in infectious disease epidemiology so far?
Epidemiology cannot exist without laboratory science. At present we are perfectly equipped with new investigative techniques including rapid methods and PCR diagnostics. Another vital aspect of epidemiology is registration of new vaccines. Many infections become vaccine preventable.
How did you start collaborating in the EpiNorth project?
After a re-organization of the sanitary service in 2005 I took my present position and was invited to participate in the project.
What do you find the most interesting aspect of the EpiNorth project?
The EpiNorth journal and the project website emphasize the importance of basic epidemiological principals. They also give us an opportunity to share our experiences and discuss the most relevant and urgent problems with colleagues. It is well known that epidemics of infectious diseases go beyond any country borders!
What do you consider the most important achievement of the EpiNorth project?
I appreciate its consistency and reliability. The project continues to unite specialists who want to share their views and ideas. Within the project, the language of epidemiology provides mutual understanding for people from Northern Europe speaking many different languages.
What is your favourite book and why?
My favorite book is “An Epidemiologist’s Journey in Time and Space” by B.L. Cherkassky. The author describes the history of Russian epidemiology since its foundation through his own biography. The narration is so dynamic that it is hard to stop reading it. This is one of those books that make you feel sorry they have not only a beginning, but also an end.
Aside from your professional career, what is your greatest ambition in life?
I want to live in harmony. The tempo of daily life increases every year. People are drawn further and further away from Mother Nature. At the time of total re-appraisal of values, it is easy to lose the meaning of life and to squander on trivia. The most important thing is to bring joy to those who are close to you, to friends and colleagues, to keep communicating with them and making them happy.
What would be your wishes for the younger colleagues in the field of epidemiology?
Epidemiology is quite an exact science, but it always has some elements of philosophy. You should learn to understand it and, if you manage to do so, your job will bring you real satisfaction. The more you learn about the micro-world and its laws, the more interesting and captivating it becomes for you to live in our macro-world.