An Infectious Voyage

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With millions of birds descending on Delaware Bay during migration, the propensity for bird flu H5N1 to spread among flocks—and potentially among humans —has been a pressing concern.

Viral Voyages

And as animals, from gray whales to monarch butterflies make epic treks of thousands of kilometers each year, the role of these travelers in spreading highly pathogenic diseases along the way has been a key question for ecologists and epidemiologists alike. At first brush, a long-distance voyage might sound like an excellent opportunity for substantial disease spread.


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But perhaps unexpectedly animal migration might actually help keep super-pathogenic diseases in check, argued a team of researchers behind a new review paper. Birds that migrate across continents tend to have a higher viral load than those that stay at home year round.

But for some of those species, migrating might help to avoid the more virulent pathogens that can accumulate in one environment.


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Other animals might use this migratory escape method as well. For example, previous research has suggested that reindeer Rangifer tarandus shrug off pesky warble flies Hypoderma tarandi by finding new summer pastures away from where fly larvae have been shed in the spring. Research has also shown that some sick animals tend not to travel as far, which can help prevent more extensive spread of infections.


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A study showed that Bewick's swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii infected with strains of avian flu viruses migrated later in the season and traveled shorter distances than healthier birds. And simply preparing for migration can compromise animals' immune systems. For example, research in redwings Turdus iliacus showed that captive birds anticipating migration were more likely to succumb to latent Lyme disease Borrelia infections.

These sick birds, in turn, might not voyage quite as far a field as healthier fowl.

The Voyage Home

Better understanding these disease dynamics will be important in stemming potential pandemics. But migrations , like the animals themselves, are moving targets, influenced by human impacts to the physical and climatic landscape. During this first field class to the architectural marvel that is the Lisbon Aqueduct, we will consider the importance of clean water and clean ways to get water in preventing infectious diseases so that we can deepen our understanding of key concepts in epidemiology and disease transmission.

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Field Class 2: Costa Rica, December 12 One Health is the concept that the health of animals, people, and the places we all share depends on an integrated approach that transcends any one discipline or group. During this field class, we will deepen our understanding of the ways that humans and animals can and do interact as these are the interfaces where shared disease transmission can occur through visits to Parque Nacional Braulio Carillo and the Toucan Rescue Ranch.

chaisubssofcau.cf Learning Objectives: 1. Collect observational data on interactions among people, wildlife, and domestic animals; 2.

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Reflect on the ways that these interactions can lead to infectious disease transmission; 3. Formulate an understanding of the One Health concept based on observations and conversations with practitioners; and 4. Evaluate whether One Health is a useful concept for wildlife conservation, domestic animal health, and public health.