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Employing ecology to predict and manage emerging infectious diseases

This week, over 80 distinguished scientists from around the world convened at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies (IES) to participate in a conference on infectious disease ecology. From West Nile Virus and Ebola to Sudden Oak Death, emerging infectious diseases threaten human health, wildlife, livestock, agriculture, and forests. Once established, infectious diseases are economic and ecological burdens that can cause, in some cases, irreversible damage.

Understanding, and ultimately preventing, emerging infectious disease depends on increased dialogue among professionals on the frontlines. The 3-day conference at the Institute provided a much-needed cross discipline forum for ecologists, medical doctors, veterinarians, and epidemiologists. Participant Dr. Sarah Randolph of Oxford University comments, "The conference facilitated invaluable conversation and collaboration among a diverse pool of scientists that share questions of common interest."

An underlying theme throughout the conference was the need to incorporate ecological methods into traditional epidemiological studies. Participant Dr. Andy Dobson, an ecologist at Princeton University, noted, "When trying to unravel the infectious diseases of plants and animals, the macroscope of ecologists can provide just as much information as the microscope of microbiologists, veterinarians, and physicians. Infectious diseases exist within an ecological context."

Traditionally, infectious disease has been viewed as a problem that is best addressed through the use of vaccines or drugs. The diverse group of experts attending the conference explored the role of disease within a big-picture framework- considering the ecological context in which disease epidemics arise, and the consequences of disease in ecological systems. One of the main topics discussed at the conference was how ecological systems influence disease dynamics.

Consider Lyme disease. The pathogen that t
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Contact: Lori Quillen
quillenl@ecostudies.org
845-677-7600 x321
Institute of Ecosystem Studies
7-May-2005


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