Across the countryside: How ecology predicts the movement of parasites and disease

You turn on your local news or open up your local paper looking for the forecast - not for the day's weather, but for an "infection" report. Sometime in the future, finding out about an encroaching illness may be this simple. From measles to rabies to deadly fungus on corals, scientists are conducting research investigating the movement of diseases. Knowing where, how, and how quickly diseases spread, whether transmitted through parasites or from animal to animal, could help society manage these diseases in both humans and ecosystems. On Tuesday, August 7, 2001, some researchers of the Ecological Society of America will examine how diseases and parasites spread in a symposium entitled The Role of Parasites and Infectious Diseases in Ecology. The session, which will be held during the Society's Annual Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin, will examine specific ways of tracking the spread of disease and parasites within an ecosystem, and how this knowledge may be used in the future.

Richard Ostfeld of the Institute for Ecosystem Studies (IES) along with fellow IES colleagues Felicia Keesing, Kathleen LoGiudice, and Kenneth Smith will open the session with a presentation entitled, The dilution effect in disease ecology: the search for host X. Examining rodent hosts such as eastern chipmunks and the white-footed mouse, the researchers will describe how the spread of ailments such as Lyme disease are influenced by the diversity of species in an area, a concept known as "The Dilution Effect." They will report their findings on the importance of animal diversity in regards to the spread, not only of the tick population, but also the chances of the transmission of Lyme disease. While researchers do not know exactly which animals the ticks favor, they will discuss possible alternative hosts such as opossums and certain shrews. The team will focus on the impact of community diversity on the transmission of infectious disease.

The second speakers for the session

Contact: Nadine Lymn
Ecological Society of America

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