The disease trackers

If you were trying to predict where the next new infectious disease will come from, the Mekong Basin would be a decent guess. This large river basin is shared by between China, Burma (Myanmar), Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. It holds a booming mobile human population and hordes of accompanying livestock, which are encroaching into areas inhabited by wild animals. Within this throng, infections can easily jump from species to species and find new hosts in large numbers.

This threat of emerging diseases in the Mekong Basin is the subject of my latest feature, published today in the British Medical Journal. I discuss why this area is such a prime hotspot for new infections and the surveillance programmes that are trying to spot these diseases before they spread around the world. I also go into the problems of coordinating efforts across very different countries, how to spot diseases before they emerge, and how to spread the word of new infections using everything from email to mobile phones. Go and have a read.

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