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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

The Conservation Alliance

Our Hyper-Infectious Era
Hugh Bollinger

Our Hyper-Infectious Era

Detection & Surveillance Map (credit: Project Predict, USAID/UC Davis)

Tropical diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and other infectious agents are on the increase, if we have learned anything from the COVID-19 experience. These pathogens have mostly escaped from tropical forests to infect people through contact with wild animals including primates, birds, bats, insects, and others. SARS (a coronavirus), AIDS, dengue fever, bird flu, Ebola, and now COVID-19 (a novel coronavirus) are a few examples. They expanded into human populations from tropical deforestation, wildlife sold by the 'bushmeat trade', land clearing for agriculture, and settlements in once intact rainforests. Climate change is predicted to further accelerate these introductions as more pathogens escape the forests.

Infectious diseases have found easy transport via our global, interconnected networks of airline traffic and migrations of people from the countryside into cities or across national borders. Time is critical in identifying any new bugs that might cause an epidemic or pandemic. Project Predict at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis works to detect such new pathogens that can crossover from animals to people by attempting to identify bacteria and viruses with pandemic potential before they cause outbreaks. Two instructional videos, produced in association with National Public Radio (NPR) explain 'killer viruses' and their potential to create health emergencies.

Infectious tropical diseases have moved out of their forests and human populations are increasingly playing catch-up that takes both time and money to both detect and control. If you had ever caught dengue fever, hopefully not COVID-19 during The Plague Year, you will want biologists and medical researchers to continue working overtime to develop new vaccines and other protective measures in the microbiological battles of our hyper-infectious era.


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