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With people traveling much more frequently and far greater distances than in the past, living in more densely populated areas, and coming into closer contact with wild animals, the potential for emerging infectious diseases to spread rapidly and cause global epidemics is a major concern.

NSF Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases

These diseases include anthrax , smallpox , and tularemia. Some result from natural processes such as the evolution of pathogens over time, but many are a result of human behavior and practices. Consider how the interaction between the human population and our environment has changed, especially in the last century. Factors that have contributed to these changes are population growth, migration from rural areas to cities, international air travel, poverty, wars, and destructive ecological changes due to economic development and land use.

For an emerging disease to become established at least two events have to occur — 1 the infectious agent has to be introduced into a vulnerable population and 2 the agent has to have the ability to spread readily from person-to-person and cause disease. The infection also has to be able to sustain itself within the population, that is more and more people continue to become infected. Many emerging diseases arise when infectious agents in animals are passed to humans referred to as zoonoses.

As the human population expands in number and into new geographical regions, the possibility that humans will come into close contact with animal species that are potential hosts of an infectious agent increases. When that factor is combined with increases in human density and mobility, it is easy to see that this combination poses a serious threat to human health. Climate change is increasingly becoming a concern as a factor in the emergence of infectious diseases. As Earth's climate warms and habitats are altered, diseases can spread into new geographic areas.

A factor that is especially important in the re-emergence of diseases is antimicrobial resistance - the acquired resistance of pathogens to antimicrobial medications such as antibiotics.

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Another factor that can cause a disease to re-emerge is a decline in vaccine coverage, so that even when a safe and effective vaccine exists, a growing number of people choose not to become vaccinated. This has been a particular problem with the measles vaccine. Measles, a highly contagious and serious infection that was eliminated from the U. Influenza virus is infamous for its ability to change its genetic information.


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The chances of large genetic changes occurring and being passed into humans are increased when humans coexist in close proximity with agricultural animals such as chickens, ducks, and pigs. These animals are natural hosts of influenza virus and can act as mixing vessels to create novel versions of influenza that have not existed previously.

Avian H5N1 influenza or bird flu , which emerged more than a decade ago, has been limited to relatively rare instances of infection in humans who came into direct contact with diseased birds. The H5N1 virus is very deadly more than half the cases have been fatal , but it has not acquired the ability to pass efficiently between humans. In contrast, the H1N1 influenza, which passed into humans from swine pigs , transmitted easily from person to person. The H1N1 virus traveled around the world faster than any virus in history as a result of human activity, particularly air travel.

Origins of novel pathogens; 2. Analysis of the spread of infectious diseases; 3. Medical and public health countermeasures to prevent and control epidemics; 4.


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  8. Panel discussions involving leading public health experts with deep frontline experiences to share their views on risk communication, crisis management, ethics and public trust in the context of infectious disease control. In addition to the original introductory sessions on epidemics, we revamped the course by adding: - new panel discussions with world-leading experts; and - supplementary modules on next generation informatics for combating epidemics.

    Emerg Infect Dis Apr; 11 4 What you'll learn - Demonstrate knowledge of the origins, spread and control of infectious disease epidemics - Demonstrate understanding of the importance of effective communication about epidemics - Demonstrate understanding of key contemporary issues relating to epidemics from a global perspective.

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    NSF: Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases - Research Funding Alerts and Announcements

    Video 2. Enroll for Free. From the lesson.

    Theme One: Origins Emergence and ecology of infectious diseases.