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Geography and infectious diseases: Role of human mobility, translocation and access to healthcare

Guest edited by Norbert Brattig, Robert Bergquist, Alok Tiwari, Penelope Vounatsou, and Xiao-Nong Zhou

A thematic series in Infectious Diseases of Poverty.

Geography and infectious diseases © ilya_levchenko /

We live in an increasingly connected world, which contributes to epidemics developing into pandemics assisted by the growth of the general economy with strengthened urban expansion, travel and migration. As translocation of infectious pathogens depend on human mobility dynamics, the link between public health and geography is essential.

The association of environmental factors with human health and well-being is important and relevant, as is spatial-temporal analysis for successful disease management and optimization of health care. Integrated spatial surveillance systems are useful for tracking risk and incidence of diseases and exploration of the environmental factors. Further, interdisciplinary collaboration with transport geography, social sciences and spatial statistics requires connectivity and cross-linkage with global research.

Health equity is closely connected to spatial accessibility to health care and the targeting of healthcare resources (geolocation). Transport plays a key role as it is strongly connected to access to water and sanitation as well as health care facilities. Mobility, travel and transport features e.g. the Belt and Road initiative of China for disease control and global health. Spatial ecology and the genetic evolution of pathogens shape the dynamics of transmission. Thus, the intersection of evolutionary biology, epidemiology and geography work towards an integrated view of spatial incidence, host mobility and viral genetic diversity, while translocation of pathogens is closely connected to the transport of goods, commodities and freight.

The emergence of zoonotic viruses without previous known contact to humans that have moved from various animal reservoirs, e.g., bats, monkeys and pangolins, are now more common due to deforestation and expansion of urban and agricultural areas encroaching on nature. Examples include the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Ebola, Chikungunya, Zika, avian influenza and several coronaviruses producing severe acute respiratory syndromes (SARS) including the current SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

In view of the above considerations, Infectious Diseases of Poverty is launching a new thematic series dealing with the following aspects:

  1. Translocation of infections and infectious agents by human dynamics;
  2. Implication of transport networks, of commodities and freights;
  3. Role of BELT and ROAD initiative in global health and allocation of agents;
  4. Effects of human-animal co-residences, of the expansion urban and agricultural areas including deforestation;
  5. Spatial health and disease management, spatial distribution and risk factors for human infections;
  6. Spillover of zoonotic viruses with high host plasticity (HIV, Ebola, Chikungunya, Zika, avian influenza, SARS) from animal reservoirs (bats, monkeys and pangolins; 
  7. Zoonotic potential of multiresistant bacteria, co-spread of antibiotic resistance within plasmids from microbes;
  8. Role of climatic changes in emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases, associations of environmental factors with human health; 
  9. Interdisciplinary collaboration: connectivity, cross-linkage of global research, infection control.
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