The threat to animal and public health posed by viral, bacterial and parasitic infectious diseases is a matter of grave concern. These diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide, claiming at least 17 million human lives, and indeterminable numbers of domesticated and wild animals each year. Most, but not all, of these infections are zoonotic, including almost all bio-terror agents and most emerging diseases.
Infectious diseases not only place a great strain on the already stretched public and animal health services, but also add to the socio-economic burden of the rich and the poor. These agents also impact global security by affecting food supplies for an increasing world population, access to international trade and economic growth, and raise concerns for potential use as pathogens in bioterrorism.
In recent years, the world has had to respond to SARS-associated coronavirus identified in some domestic and wildlife animal species, Nipah virus from bats via pigs, influenza viruses from birds, and the West Nile virus from birds via mosquitoes. In addition, naturally occurring zoonotic and non-zoonotic diseases, such as anthrax, tuberculosis and antimicrobial-resistant organisms, have emerged in part as a result of the agricultural practices that include use of antimicrobials for disease prevention and growth promotion of several domesticated species. Parasitic diseases, including filariasis, schistosomiasis and malaria, have been and continue to be huge burdens to health and welfare of animal and/or human populations primarily in the developing world. Finally, the U.S. and other countries remain vulnerable to bio- and agro-terrorism by agents such as foot and mouth disease, emphasizing the need for a continuum of scientific interdisciplinary approaches to microbial threats.
It is imperative that those in human, animal, agricultural and environmental sciences work together to address threats associated with emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. With a variety of regional, national and international collaborators and the addition of new and planned personnel, resources and facilities, the Department of Infectious Diseases envisions its mission to be that of a regional and national leader in infectious diseases education and research.