it clear that understanding the ecology of infectious diseases will take a long-term, multidisciplinary effort—one that is essential to public health efforts of the future.
Although on a broad regional scale there is an increased risk to humans from the trophic cascade triggered by increased precipitation input into the environment, the actual risk to humans is highly localized and depends on a complex series of variables. Other factors, such as landscape heterogeneity, microclimatic differences, rodent disease, local food abundance, and competition, may be involved as well, and such complexity will have to be taken into account before a predictive model of HPS risk can be developed on a fine-grained scaled.
Understanding the biological complexity of natural and humandominated ecosystems will be required before ecological and evolutionary forecasting can be employed on the scale needed to safeguard the public health against hantaviral and other zoonotic disease outbreaks. Largescale, long-term, multidisciplinary studies also will be necessary to determine if foreign or genetically modified pathogens are being introduced into our ecosystems.
Near real-time forecasting of risks of these types of diseases will be possible only if remote and other types of sensing become utilized on a continental or global scale. One example, based on hantavirus in the American Southwest, is discussed as a possible model for a wider array of applications.
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