In this video, produced by Harvard University's Center for the Environment as a resource for the Planetary Health Alliance, Rick Ostfeld explains the ecology of Lyme disease. Discover how acorns and white-footed mice amplify disease risk, why predators like foxes make good neighbors, and the impact climate change and forest fragmentation have on the spread of tick-borne disease.
Rick Ostfeld and Felicia Keesing have been studying Lyme disease and ways to stop it for more than 20 years. The couple has come up with a way to predict how bad a Lyme season will be a full year in advance.
The world is now in uncharted territory when it comes to infectious diseases. We're facing a whole new era. Over the past century, the number of new infectious diseases cropping up each year has nearly quadrupled. The number of outbreaks per year has more than tripled.
Protecting the environment is usually easier to the extent we can link it to human health concerns. The tough federal Clean Air Act, for example, has been driving the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, but the real impetus for the law is the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimate that it’s saving more than 160,000 human lives each year.
The Cary Institute has embarked on an ambitious study that will test environmental interventions with the potential to reduce tick-borne disease in neighborhoods. The goal: to lower Lyme disease rates and protect public health.
On a Thursday morning in May, I follow researcher Kelly Oggenfuss into the forest on the grounds of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York. Stopping at an orange flag, she picks up a footlong metal box. With a gloved hand, she extracts a terrified-looking rodent. "These guys," she says, pinching the mouse between the shoulder blades, "are really good at passing along Lyme disease to ticks."
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the recent issue of EMBO reports, Barbara 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.