Baruch College Professor Part of Major "Emerging Disease" Study Published in Nature

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Photo - Professor Deborah Balk of the School of Public Affairs

Professor Balk's latest research proposes new ways of understanding the transmission of diseases between animals and humans.

-- Photo by Chris Taggart

New York, NY – Feb. 20, 2008 –
Baruch College’s Deborah Balk, associate director of the CUNY Institute for Demographic Research, is one of seven co-authors of a ground-breaking study of emerging disease "hot spots" around the world. The study, which appears in the February 21, 2008 issue of the scientific journal Nature, says that new diseases originate primarily from increased contact between wild animals and humans in poor nations. The increased contact is taking place due to the population squeeze on remote wilderness areas and the greater intrusion of humans into regions of vast biodiversity.

Emerging diseases, such as the Ebola virus, SARs and HIV/AIDS have erupted due to pathogens making a "jump" from animals to humans. The researchers report that this happens chiefly in ecological "hot spots" such as sub-Saharan Africa, India, and China. To draw these conclusions, the researchers analyzed data from 335 emerging diseases covering the period from 1940 to 2004.

Balk, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs, contributed study design, data construction and analysis to the study. According to Balk, what is notable about the study is "the integration of human and ecological data," which points the way to future research in this field. “The maps help people visualize what’s happening," she notes. "They provide the special framework that allowed us to draw these conclusions."

Researchers at The Earth Institute at Columbia University, CIESIN, The Center for International Earth Science, Wildlife Trust, The Zoological Society of London, and the Odium School of Ecology at the University of Georgia also contributed to this study.

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Zane Berzins
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