Tracking Birds to Stop the Spread of Disease
Innovative new programs detect outbreaks faster than ever before.
Birds can be deadly beauties, harboring diseases like West Nile virus that are harmful to humans. New tools are helping to track and better understand the spread of these and other so-called zoonotic diseases, which jump from wildlife to people, in hopes of stopping them before they become human epidemics. In Uganda, an emerging disease hotspot, the Animal Mortality Monitoring Program trains locals to document animal deaths. Using cell phones, they record the GPS position, creating an early warning system that alerts authorities to spikes in mortality. Another initiative documents the illegal animal trade, an elusive mode of transport for diseases, including avian flu. The Wildlife Trade Map combines official data with informal real-time media stories, shedding light on underground networks that usually evade traditional monitoring.