NSF Awards East-West Center $1.4 Million to Study Development’s Role in Avian Flu Transmission

Source: East-West Center News

HONOLULU (Sep. 1) – The East-West Center (EWC) was awarded a three-year grant for $1,398,380 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate the impact of development-based environmental change on avian flu transmission. The project, “CNH: Coupled Natural-Human Systems and Emerging Infectious Diseases,” will examine the interaction of urbanization, agricultural change, and habitat alteration with outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in poultry in Vietnam.

“Studying the role of societal development in disease transmission is urgent and critical for improving the prediction and control of disease,” stated Jefferson Fox, East-West Center Senior Fellow and member of the team heading up the project. “The outcomes will be useful in designing policies for preventing and managing infectious disease outbreaks in Vietnam and other developing nations.”

Between December 2003 and August 2005, three waves of HPAI in Vietnam have resulted in 45 million bird deaths and 106 confirmed human cases with 52 deaths. As part of the coupled natural-human (CNH) system, people are exposed to infectious diseases from each other and other animals. Previous research suggests that disease outbreaks are associated with environmental changes that occur as societies evolve. However, the mechanisms underlying these outbreaks are not well understood because the CNH interactions are so complex. The findings from this study will help inform the Emerging Infectious Disease (EID) research community about the significance of development-based environmental change and perceived human risks in disease outbreaks.

The project will bring together a diverse multidisciplinary team of specialists from the East-West Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Hanoi University of Agriculture in Vietnam. It will also include the participation of graduate students in an NSF funded IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) in the fields of ecology, conservation, and pathogen biology.