Not Just a Cold

In this era of climate change, lightning-fast global travel and ecotourism we are also seeing the rise of new diseases that spread with frightening virulence and speed. Environmental fluctuations enable diseases to evolve quickly and spread from species to species, while human beings transport them rapidly around the world. Scientists predict that this trend is only going to get worse (see "Connecting the Dots," cover story, November/December 2004), and that seems to be the case this year. Although avian influenza or bird flu was first identified a century ago, the first confirmed case in humans did not occur until 1997. Since an outbreak in 2003, though, it has ravaged poultry farms across Asia and infected 69 people in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, killing 46. Most affected countries believed the epidemic was under control by the spring of 2004, but half of the human deaths have occurred since then and they are likely to continue, say observers.

CONTACT: Consortium for Conservation Medicine, (845)365-8469,; Wildlife Trust, (845)365-8337,