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Scientists to explore global change-public health connection

Emerging infectious diseases, including malaria, dengue fever, and avian influenza, have been linked to a number of environmental factors and, more recently, to climate change. Research suggests that as temperatures increase, the animals that carry and ultimately transmit these diseases to humans will expand in range. As this occurs, these diseases may be introduced into areas where they currently do not pose a threat. Understanding the interactions that occur among climate, environment, and infectious disease is critical to informing public policy decisions and protecting public health, and will be the focus of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) 61st Annual Meeting.

Scientists, educators, and policy makers will gather near Washington, DC, May 1213, 2008, at the Westin Arlington Gateway, Virginia, to discuss the timely and complex issues related to the meetings theme, Climate, Environment, and Infectious Diseases. The meeting will feature plenary presentations by internationally recognized researchers from academic, biotechnology, and government organizations.

With the increased interest in climate change, it is appropriate to focus on human health, especially infectious diseases that will be exacerbated or modified by climate events, said meeting organizer and 2008 AIBS President Dr. Rita Colwell. Seasonality is just now recognized as an important factor in the annual cycle of infectious diseases and this will be but one of many factors that influence the range, intensity, and length of time each year that given infectious diseases arise. The AIBS Annual Meeting will address this most timely health problem.

Keynote and plenary presentations include:

Monday, May 12

  • Terry Maple, Palm Beach Zoo: A Contract with the Earth

  • James Hansen, NASA: Global Warming: The Threat to Life

  • Durland Fish, Yale University: Environmental Determinants of Lyme Disease Risk

  • Howard Frumkin, National Center for Environmental Health: The Public Health Response to Climate Change

  • David Rogers, University of Oxford: Infectious Diseases and the Environment

  • Stephen Morse, Columbia University: How Could Climate Change Affect Avian Influenza?

Tuesday, May 13

  • Andrew Dobson, Princeton University: Disentangling the Role of Climate, Immunity, and Biotic Interactions in the Dynamics of Infectious Diseases

  • Duane Gubler, University of Hawaii: The 20th Century Emergence and Spread of Epidemic Dengue/Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever: Is Climate or Environmental Change Responsible?

  • Stephen Hoffamn, Sanaria, Inc.: Malaria

The interplay between science, policy, and health within the context of climate change will also be the focus of two special sessions. Science and Society: The Art of Communication will feature National Public Radios Science Friday host, Ira Flatow, and popular authors Robert Morris and Kim Stanley Robinson. Climate Change and Human Health: Developing Collaborations with the Public Health Community will be moderated by David Blockstein from the National Council on Science and the Environment.

The meeting also includes a contributed poster session; educational workshops convened by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the WGBH Educational Foundation, and the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science; a diversity luncheon; and the presentation of the 2008 AIBS Awards.


Contact: Holly Menninger
202-628-1500 x229
American Institute of Biological Sciences

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