Scientists map epidemic trigger zones

January 5th, 2009 - 1:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Jan 5 (IANS) Scientists have identified and mapped potential zones that can trigger deadly outbreak of plagues and epidemics, with devastating consequences. “A study has revealed a number of global hot-spots where new and unknown diseases are most likely to erupt - and it turns out that one of the hottest is spread in an arc to Australia’s north,” warned Stephen Prowse.

Prowse is the chief executive officer of Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre for Emerging Infectious Disease (AB-CRC).

“We’re in the front line for outbreaks of diseases like SARS, bird flu, Nipah virus, enterovirus 71 and chikungunya - which infect both people and animals. Such diseases are most likely to emerge in our region,” Prowse said.

The study of global disease hot-spots was carried out by Peter Daszak and colleagues of the Consortium for Conservation Medicine in New York, a partner of the AB-CRC, said its release.

“We’ve developed an ‘earthquake zone’ map for emerging diseases. It shows which countries are most likely to be on the frontline of an emerging pandemic. We now have a way to predict the places from where the next HIV, SARS or avian influenza is likely to emerge,” Daszak said.

“Our risk map shows that Australia is surrounded to the north by a ‘ring of fire’ - countries that are some of the hottest of the hot-spots. This means Australia needs to be forward thinking in its approach to biosecurity risk.”

“And that is exactly what we are doing,” said Prowse. “The map is fascinating because of what it tells us of the probability of new diseases emerging or of old diseases - like rabies for example - re-emerging.”

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