Disease Ecology

monkey

IBM steps up efforts in fight against Zika

International Business Machines Corp said on Wednesday it would provide its technology and resources to help track the spread of the Zika virus.

The key to stopping Ebola? Using machine learning to track infected bats

Over the course of the past year or so, there have been a number of incredible tech projects aimed at stopping the spread of Ebola. One approach that we’ve never come across before, however, involves plotting the possible spread of Ebola and other “filoviruses” of the same family by predicting which bat species they’re most likely to be carried by

Artificial intelligence reveals undiscovered bat carriers of Ebola and other filoviruses

A team of scientists has developed a model that can predict bat species most likely to transmit Ebola and other filoviruses. Findings highlight new potential hosts and geographic hotspots worthy of surveillance. So reports a new paper in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Mapping Emerging Infectious Diseases

Podcast

Ebola. Hantavirus. Lyme disease. What do they have in common? Like most emerging infectious diseases, they originated in mammals. So many debilitating pathogens make the jump from wildlife and livestock to humans, yet at the global scale little is known about where people are most at risk of outbreaks.

Big data + technology = improved global health

Podcast

Scientists are calling for the creation of a global early warning system for infectious diseases. Such a system would use computer models to tap into environmental, epidemiological, and molecular data – gathering the intelligence needed to forecast where disease risk is high.

These maps reveal where rats, monkeys, and other mammals may pass diseases on to humans

The majority of infectious diseases currently emerging as human epidemics originated in mammals. Yet we still know very little about the global patterns of mammal-to-human pathogen transmission. As a first step, researchers at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and the University of Georgia have assembled summative world maps of what’s on record about mammal-to-human diseases.

Who needs Aedes mosquitoes?

Podcast

There are approximately 3,500 mosquito species in the world. Of those, only a few hundred are known to bite humans. And just two have adapted to breed almost exclusively in urban environments where they are in close proximity to people.

Social and ecological underpinnings of infectious disease

Podcast

When it comes to addressing infectious disease, we have a short attention span. In the case of Zika, the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency based on a strong association between Zika infection and microcephaly in newborns.

A global early warning system for infectious diseases

In the recent issue of EMBO reportsBarbara Han of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and John Drake of the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology call for the creation of a global early warning system for infectious diseases.

Cary Institute, Bard receive grant for large-scale tick control study

Two institutions in the Hudson Valley have received a $5 million grant for a large-scale study aimed at reducing tick populations and Lyme disease. The five-year project is the first to explore Lyme disease management for entire communities.

tick studies

Cary Institute receives $5 million from Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation for large-scale study aimed at reducing ticks and Lyme disease

The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation has awarded a $5 million dollar leadership grant to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies to support a scientific study, being done in partnership with Bard College, that seeks to reduce Lyme disease in neighborhoods. 

tick dragging

Trouble With Ticks

Video

As part of the PBS series, Global Health Frontiers, Cary's Rick Ostfeld and other wildlife sleuths work to unravel complex factors driving the explosive spread of Lyme disease in a yard-to-yard battle to try and turn the tide.

shannon ladeau

Zika: Are outbreaks in U.S. cities avoidable?

When it comes to addressing emerging infectious disease, we have a short attention span. Forces are mobilized when we’ve crossed a tipping point, and demobilized when the immediate threat has passed. 

Water a key factor in Zika virus spread

The World Health Organization on Monday declared the spread of the Zika virus to be a public health emergency of international concern due to its potential link to microcephaly, a birth defect that causes abnormal head and brain development.

Beating Zika in the wild

Fighting mosquitoes is no walk in the park. A disease ecologist describes the landscape of mosquito-borne diseases here in the United States.

bats

Hunt for Ebola’s wild hideout takes off as epidemic wanes

With the official end of Ebola transmission across West Africa anticipated on 14 January, an epidemic that killed more than 11,000 people in 2 years may be starting to fade into history. But that does not mean that Ebola has disappeared. The virus remains hidden in animal reservoirs, and is almost certain to spill over into humans again.

Will climate change = more disease?

Scientists estimate that almost 75 percent of new (and re-emerging) diseases affecting humans at the beginning of the 21st Century were transmitted through animals. Among these so-called "zoonotic" diseases are AIDS, SARS, H5N2 avian flu and H1N1, or swine flu.

Tracking infectious disease

Imagine a world where a computer program could pinpoint the next infectious disease outbreak, guiding response efforts and saving lives. Cary Institute disease ecologist Dr. Barbara Han is bringing this vision closer to reality.

The algorithm that's hunting Ebola

In April 2014, just after world health officials identified a series of suspicious deaths in Guinea as an outbreak of Ebola, 10 ecologists, 4 veterinarians, and an anthropologist traveled to a Guinean village named Meliandou. Theirs was a detective mission to determine how this outbreak began. How had "patient zero," a 2-year-old boy named Emile, contracted the Ebola virus?

Mosquito migration

Podcast

Globally, there are more than 3,000 mosquito species, with around 150 native to the U.S. To many listeners – a mosquito is a mosquito. But depending on the species that bites you, mosquitoes can be a nuisance or a public health threat.

Biodiversity is good for us

Podcast

There are many reasons to protect Earth's biodiversity. One of the more underrated is that disease incidence is lower when ecosystems support a variety of plants and animals.

Saving wildlife might be good for your health

Preserving habitats and encouraging biodiversity does wonders for plant and animal life, giving them room to thrive without human interference. In recent years some scientists have wondered if biodiversity might also help humans, protecting us from infectious diseases that spread from nonhuman animals to people

Forecasting future infectious disease outbreaks

Podcast

From Ebola and bird flu to Lyme disease and West Nile virus, most emerging infectious diseases are transmitted from animals to humans, with more than a billion people suffering each year. Safeguarding public health requires effective surveillance tools. 

Researchers unraveling secrets of Ebola talk at UGA

Ecologists shared ideas and research about the Ebola virus at a meeting in Athens, Georgia. Cary's Barbara Han talked about methods scientists are developing that would identify likely wildlife carriers of filoviruses, a kind of virus related to rabies virus which includes Ebola, Marburg virus and some other deadly species.

The Ecology of Lyme Disease

Lecture Video

Explore the ecology of Lyme disease with Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute. For more than twenty years, Ostfeld and his research team have been investigating how environmental conditions influence the spread of tick-borne illness.

rat

Of mice and mouse clicks

Between 1346 and 1353 the Black Death killed over a third of Europe's population. It took 150 years for the continent to recover. The disease was so devastating that it changed the social order, as a scarcity of labour led to higher wages for the survivors, hastening the demise of feudalism.

vole

Could a computer predict the next pandemic?

Using a computer to predict an infectious disease outbreak before it starts may sound like a bit of Philip K. Dick sci-fi, but scientists are coming close. In a new study, researchers have used machine learning—teaching computers to recognize patterns in large data sets—to make accurate forecasts about which animals might harbor dangerous viruses, bacteria, and fungi. 

map

Forecasting future infectious disease outbreaks

Machine learning can pinpoint rodent species that harbor diseases and geographic hotspots vulnerable to new parasites and pathogens. So reports a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences led by Barbara A. Han, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

ticks in jar

Be careful; ticks could be arriving earlier this spring

Data Cary's Rick Ostfeld and his team have collected since the 1990s reveals a marked change in the behavior of black-legged ticks -- they are arriving on the scene earlier than ever in the spring. They're also showing up farther to the north, and at higher elevations, than they have in the past.

frog

Tough times for amphibians

Podcast

Around the world, millions of frogs, toads, and salamanders are dying from two emerging diseases. The first plague appeared in the 1990s, and is so deadly to amphibians that it is causing what has been described as the most spectacular loss of vertebrate biodiversity due to disease in recorded history.

Aedes aegypti

Reducing mosquitoes Is vital to human health

Dengue fever and chikungunya are transmitted to humans by two species of mosquitos, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. There are no vaccines for these viral diseases and while not often fatal, they can disable victims with painful symptoms for weeks or months.

Algorithms and ecology: A new partnership

Podcast

If you shop online, this is a familiar scenario: You click on a product like a book, and the online merchant presents you with a list of related items. "If you like X, you might also like Y."

Tick-borne Diseases in the Hudson Valley: The Ecology of Risk

Video

Cary disease ecologist Rick Ostfeld  provides new information on the various tick-borne diseases that affect the Hudson Valley in New York State.

blacklegged tick

Study finds one tick bite can deliver multiple infections

Podcast
A new study in New York reveals that ticks are more likely to be infected with several pathogens, not just the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The ticks for the study were collected from Dutchess County.

asian tiger mosquito

Mosquitoes in urban areas

Podcast

Now that summer is finally on the horizon, so too is mosquito season. More than an annoyance, mosquitoes can spread serious illnesses, like West Nile virus and Dengue.

Lyme Disease: Ten things you always wanted to know about ticks...

To find out how to steer clear of Lyme disease during "picnic season" - a time when people are more likely to pick up ticks - the National Science Foundation spoke with NSF-funded disease ecologist Rick Ostfeld of the Cary Institute.

white-footed mouse

Study says mice are super hosts of Lyme ticks

While bloodsucking ticks can lay waste to a moose and infect humans with devastating diseases, the tiny parasites and the bacteria they carry have no apparent effect on one wee woodland creature: the white-footed mouse.

Aedes aegypti

As climate change alters ecosystems, scientists worry that exotic diseases will spread

Another public health challenge the National Climate Assessment will explore is the likelihood that diseases native to other geographical areas will migrate to the United States as climate changes alter ecosystems.

A mosquito fever expands its range

Podcast

A mosquito-borne virus that causes fever, headaches, and severe joint pain has spread to the Caribbean. Experts fear it's only a matter of time before it makes its way to the U.S. 

Capitol Hill briefing: Climate change and infectious disease

Audio
Speakers: Richard Ostfeld and George Luber

Topics covered include the controversy over whether climate change will increase the burden of infectious disease with a focus on malaria and other mosquito-transmitted diseases.

How the spreading symptoms of climate change can be deadly

The hallmarks of a warming climate, heavier rains, more severe droughts, rising sea levels and longer growing seasons, are spreading a variety of pathogens throughout the world.

Lyme disease: Freezes may reduce ticks

A 2012 study co-authored by Cary Disease Ecologist Rick Ostfeld examined the probability of tick mortality in winter conditions in Millbrook and Syracuse.

Dengue fever: Another formidable World Cup opponent

Brazil is a hot spot for dengue fever, a mosquito-transmitted virus that lacks a vaccine or treatment. The nation's 573 dengue deaths in 2013 through Nov. 20 is nearly double the 2012 toll.

Diseases on the move because of climate change

Warming temperatures and increased extreme weather events such as drought, rainstorms and flooding, contribute to the nation's changing disease map, experts say. USA Today reports on this trend and how it has impacted the spread of various diseases including tick-borne illnesses.

An interview with Rick Ostfeld

Initially, Rick Ostfeld’s work at the Cary Institute focused on how small mammals shape forests. Early on, he noticed a unique relationship among mice, black-legged ticks, and the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

The human health costs of losing natural systems

A new paper from members of the HEAL (Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages) consortium delineates a new branch of environmental health that focuses on the public health risks of human-caused changes to Earth’s natural systems.

Tracking disease in a warming world

Podcast

Understanding how infectious diseases respond to climate change would help public health officials and environmental managers predict and mitigate disease impacts.

The global search for education: Prevention - ticks

Given the 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease a year in the US reported by the CDC, it is understandable that health organizations and local governments in this country are extremely anxious to develop a broader, more effective tick-borne diseases control strategy.

More tickborne diseases other than Lyme. Maybe just don’t go outside.

Some tick-borne diseases are just becoming known and thus are often not recognized by physicians.

Climate change affects disease spread: The need to forecast

As our climate shifts and changes, wildlife and weather also shifts and changes. Now, researchers have found something else that's deviating from the norm.

Tick-borne virus risk increases

While extremely rare, Powassan virus is deadlier than other tick-borne illnesses — killing 30 percent of those infected statewide since 2004 — and its victims are infected much more quickly.

Study highlights need to forecast how climate is impacting disease risk

Climate change is affecting the spread of infectious diseases worldwide, according to an international team of leading disease ecologists.

Study finds ticks linked to Encephalitis in NYS

A recent study shows a link between a certain type of tick and a rare illness. The report shows the virus is on the rise in parts of the Hudson Valley and has spread to the Capital District.

Black-legged ticks linked to Encephalitis in New York State

In the Northeast, the black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) that spread Lyme disease also infect people with other maladies, among them anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and – as a new paper in the journal Parasites and Vectors reports – Powassan encephalitis.

Another reason to be ticked off

Podcast

It’s time to add another tongue-tying illness to the list of maladies carried by ticks. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the U. S., with more than 30,000 people infected annually.

A tiny invader that's driving people indoors

Podcast

The Asian tiger mosquito is yet another invasive species that has taken hold in the United States. It arrived here in 1985 in a shipment of tires imported from Asia.  This little mosquito is an aggressive human biter capable of transmitting diseases.

NYC forum: Silent Epidemic of Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases

Video
Three members of Congress joined forces with a Lyme disease advocacy group to host a forum to discuss the fight against tick-borne diseases. As a panelist, Cary's Rick Ostfeld shared his research and insights.

Frankenbug?

Podcast

There are few creatures more deadly than the tiny Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits malaria, dengue fever and other infectious diseases.  Malaria is one of the world’s great killers, claiming about 800,000 lives each year.  We can, of course, drain wetlands and spray large areas with insecticides to kill these mosquitoes. 

Kentucky birds, New York rats raise disease risks, climate change concerns

Man-induced changes to the natural environment may be the perfect storm for the spread of diseases such as histoplasmosis, hantavirus, Lyme and typhus.

rat

Resettled rats torment New Yorkers in Sandy's wake

Huffington Post follows-up on disease ecologist Rick Ostfeld's warning of increased health risks related to urban rats being displaced by Hurricane Sandy.

brown rat

Hurricane Sandy could displace rats, spread infectious disease

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Cary's Rick Ostfeld warns of an increased risk of infectious disease due to storm waters displacing urban rats.

The ecology of disease

When we do things in an ecosystem that erode biodiversity — we chop forests into bits or replace habitat with agricultural fields — we tend to get rid of species that serve a protective role. 

acorns

Where did all the acorns go?

Podcast

For many years, oaks in the Northeast were prolific acorn producers. The 2010 crop was record-breaking—many will recall getting hit with acorn rain or slipping on acorns underfoot. Last fall, however, acorns were scarce.

In wild animals, charting the pathways of disease

New York Times article explores the links between wildlife and infectious diseases.

Understanding tick-borne diseases

Millbrook, NY – The Hudson Valley has the unfortunate distinction of being the global epicenter of tick-borne disease. And the situation is getting worse. 

tropical forest

Deadly frog disease illustrates dangers of wildlife trade

The forest, normally filled with the chorus of calling frogs, falls silent. Something drops from the trees. And then another. Dead frogs are falling from the canopy.

mosquito

Summer storms offer perfect weather for mosquito breeding

We've had a wet stretch of weather. First we were drenched by Irene, then again with Lee. Saturated soils had additional rainy days. And as a result, mosquitoes have been out in droves.

mosquito

West Nile virus beats winter

Scientists are now realizing that animal and human activities during winter play a critical role in the persistence of West Nile virus.

West Nile virus alters ecological balance

West Nile virus is a human health risk because it can cause sickness and death when mosquitoes transmit the pathogen from an infected bird to a person.

mosquito

Hardy mosquitoes defy humans, shape course of history

The joy in seeing the first flowers of spring is always countered by dismay over the reappearance of mosquitoes

Biodiversity and Human Health

Lecture Video

Using Lyme disease and West Nile virus as models, disease ecologist Dr. Richard Ostfeld describes how diverse animal populations minimize our exposure to emerging infectious diseases.

Biodiversity and human health: Why more species mean fewer cases of Lyme disease

The United Nations has proclaimed 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity. 

Economic downturn could hurt your health

Dengue (pronounced DEN-ghee) fever is caused by a virus spread by mosquitoes. It was formerly called "break-bone fever" because it causes excruciating pain to the muscles and joints of its human victims.

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