Social Networks Could Help Prevent Disease Outbreaks in Endangered Chimpanzees

After Big Bang

Many think of social networks in terms of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but for recent University of Georgia doctoral graduate Julie Rushmore, social networks are tools in the fight against infectious diseases.

Rushmore, who completed her doctorate in the Odum School of Ecology in May, analyzed the social networks of wild chimpanzees to determine which individuals were most likely to contract and spread pathogens. Her findings, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology on June 5, could help wildlife managers target their efforts to prevent outbreaks and potentially help public health officials prevent disease in human populations as well.

Effective disease intervention for this species is important for a number of reasons. Wild chimpanzees are highly endangered, and diseases — including some that also infect humans — are among the most serious threats to their survival. And due to habitat loss, chimpanzees increasingly overlap with human populations, so disease…

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