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Global Change and Infectious Disease

BIOL 173
Spring 2022 not offered
Crosslisting: ENVS 260
Course Cluster and Certificates: Health Studies, Sustainability and Environmental Justice, Health Studies

This course will cover how human demands upon the environment have come back to bite us through infectious diseases. The most devastating infections, now and in the past, have spilled into humanity from other animals through our quest for food, either through hunting and trade of wild animals (COVID-19 and HIV) or through agriculture (smallpox and measles). Additionally, taking over huge swaths of land has fragmented natural habitats, with the result that some pathogens have increased in abundance (Lyme disease) and some pathogens have moved closer to humanity when humans have encroached on natural lands (Ebola). Living at high density in interconnected cities has sustained the severe infections that became humanity's childhood diseases (mumps, measles, smallpox); high densities have also brought us diseases brought by fecally-contaminated water, as well as those diseases brought by the animals that cohabit our cities and suburbs (rats, robins). Our demand on energy has brought us global warming, which is transporting tropical diseases, such as malaria, poleward from the tropics; the extreme weather events of a changed world are leading to outbreaks of zoonotic diseases (hantaviruses). Moreover, our penchant for transporting wild animals and ourselves has had the potential to spread any local flare-up of any novel disease to the whole world (plague, COVID-19). We will discuss how, even if we mitigate every existing human infection, we should expect an unending stream of new pathogens. We will discuss technological solutions to infectious diseases, as well as how changes in our ethics might help contain existing pathogens and avoid future spillovers.

Lectures will cover these and other topics. There will be two 65-minute lectures each week, with frequent opportunities for students to break out into smaller sections to figure out interesting biological challenges. There will also be a 30-minute discussion each week for each of 12 discussion sections (probably about 15 students each). These discussions will focus mostly on how policy changes might best mitigate the environmental disturbances that are bringing us infections.

The course has no formal prerequisites and will introduce material from ecology and microbiology, as needed, to allow students to read and interpret the recent literature on global change and infectious disease.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: NSM BIOL
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (ENVS-MN)(ENVS)(HRAD-MN)

Last Updated on JUN-20-2024
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