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Emerging Infections

February 19, 2009

New global diseases are emerging faster than at any other time in human history.


Emerging global infections….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

SARS, HIV, West Nile Virus. All of these diseases migrated from relatively isolated regions to areas where conditions allowed them to spread and evolve much more easily. Now there’s evidence that emerging diseases are spreading around the globe faster than any other time in human history. This according to Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist at Columbia University. He blames increased international travel and trade, along with excellerated microbial evolution and an increasingly susceptible population.

IAN LIPKIN (Columbia University):
The most important emerging threat is the one that may not even be here yet. Because if you look back at the past decade, there are literally 10s of new agents that have appeared. That doesn’t mean that they weren’t there before, it simply means that we didn’t necessarily know that they were there.

He says scientists track the spread of such diseases using mathematical models, which help them to predict and prevent future outbreaks. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.