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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.

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Our Hyper-Infectious Era

Our Hyper-Infectious Era

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

Tropical diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and other agents are on the increase, if we have learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic. Pathogens have escaped from the tropics to infect people through contact with wildlife including primates, birds, bats, insects, and others. SARS (a coronavirus), AIDS, dengue fever, bird flu, Ebola, and COVID (a novel coronavirus) are just a few examples. These disease vectors expanded into human populations from wildlife sold by the 'bushmeat trade', land clearing for agriculture, and settlements in once intact tropical forests. Infectious diseases found easy transport via our globalized and interconnected networks of airline traffic as well as people migrating from the countryside into cities or across national borders. Climate change will like increase the reach of these pathogens as well.

Time is critical in identifying new bugs that might cause an epidemic. 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 diseases have moved out of the forests and into human populations. Efforts to identify new ones is playing catch-up to detect and control them requiring time, money, and expertise. If you ever experienced dengue fever, you will want biologists and medical researchers to continue making rapid advances in new vaccines. The New Yorker dubbed Covid-19 pandemic as The Plague Year, for the microbiological battles now in our now hyper-infectious era. WHB

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