EcoHealth Alliance Receives New Award from Wellcome Trust to Develop Climate-Sensitive Disease Models
NEW YORK, 15 FEBRUARY 2023 – EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) is pleased to announce a funding award from Wellcome Trust, for the development of digital tools to better predict the impacts of climate change on infectious disease spread and epidemiology. This funding award will support EHA’s continued work on Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in South Africa, allowing us to expand the tools developed there for use in other RVF endemic areas. RVF is a zoonotic disease endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, and is especially sensitive to climatic fluctuation. RVF is typically spread to people by contact with infected livestock or mosquitoes. Increased rainfall and flooding events due to global climate change have the potential to significantly increase the population of mosquitoes in the region, thereby leading to increased transmission to livestock, and subsequently, human populations. Improving prediction of RVF outbreak potential is necessary to enable more effective policy measures, such as timing livestock vaccination campaigns to blunt or avert disease impacts.
“Outbreaks of Rift Valley fever may not occur often, but they can be severe – affecting large swaths of a country or even multiple countries. Prevention through livestock vaccination is key to safeguarding human and animal health.” said Dr. Melinda Rostal, Rift Valley Fever Project Manager and Principal Scientist, Vector-Borne Diseases, at EcoHealth Alliance. “A One Health system that could provide accurate, targeted and early warnings to animal-owners and government agencies would be a game-changer for RVF prevention and allow them to initiate vaccination campaigns and vector control programs ahead of high risk periods.”
“We’re excited to develop an open source predictive model framework for RVF outbreak prediction that can be tailored for particular geographic regions. This model will be based on EHA’s current work with South African partners, in building a RVF Environmental Risk Indicator for RVF prediction in South Africa. This new modeling work will provide a tool that can be used by policy makers to develop solutions to prevent RVF outbreaks.” said Dr. Whitney Bagge, one of the Principal Investigators for the project and EcoHealth Alliance Senior Scientist.
With the support of the Wellcome Trust, this 5-year project will greatly enhance the decision-making process for policymakers in South Africa and other countries where RVF is endemic. EHA scientists will take a highly collaborative approach to this work, building off of more than eight years working in the region and partnerships with the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa and local farmers’ associations. Wellcome has announced a total of £22.7 million for twenty-four research teams, including EHA, to develop digital tools to model the relationship between climate change and infectious disease.
Wellcome Trust – Wellcome supports science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. They support discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, and are taking on three worldwide health challenges: mental health, infectious disease and climate and health.
EcoHealth Alliance is an international environmental health nonprofit dedicated to protecting wildlife and the public from emerging infectious diseases. We work with governments, scientists, and policymakers around the world to make critical changes for pandemic prediction and prevention. Our dedicated scientists conduct field research and develop tools to safeguard the health of the planet, people, and wildlife.
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