Interactive Virus Detection Map (credit: Project Predict, UC Davis)
Tropical diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and other infectious agents are on the increase. Most of the pathogens escaped their natural tropical forest zones into people through contact with animals, birds, insects, and other hosts. SARS, AIDS, dengue fever, H5N1-bird flu (Avian influenza), and Ebola plus many others have grown with increased topical deforestation and human settlement in once intact rainforests. Climate change is expected to accelerate the introduction of many more disease pathogens unknown today.
Infectious bugs have found easy transport via the global, interconnected network of worldwide airline traffic. Time is critical to know what new bugs might cause the next big epidemic. Project Predict at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis operates surveillance 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 any outbreaks. Two instructional videos, developed in association with NPR, help to explain "killer viruses" and their potential for future health emergencies and pandemics:
Infectious tropical diseases are moving out of their forests fast and playing catch-up takes time and money to both detect and control. If you've ever had Dengue Fever, you want tropical biologists and medical researchers to be working overtime.