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T R AV E L


P


eople, goods, knowledge and disease all travel – sometimes intentionally,


sometimes by accident. These global movements can lead to deliberate, surprising and sometimes catastrophic consequences. Travel is synonymous with broaden-


ing the mind, but encountering ‘different’ people, cultures and biological environ- ments can also feed fear of ‘the other’. The ‘outbreak narrative’, a common theme in popular culture, draws on an extreme version of this: the terror of a species-threatening event caused by clashing ecosystems. In fact, the best outbreak stories tell tales of conflicting social and political frameworks as much as unexpected killer diseases, even if they are propped up by scientific para- phernalia such as microscopes and epidemiological maps. In reality, despite the major twentieth-


century medical advances of antibiotics and effective public-health measures, most infectious diseases have not been eradicated. Large populations, sedentary living in crowded urban areas and vast and rapid transportation systems are all contributing factors to the spread of disease. The evolutionary adaptations of bacteria, viruses and their vectors, which refuse to recognise human geographical boundaries, are also to blame. As anti- microbial resistance mechanisms spread internationally, the world may end up in what the World Health Organization calls ‘a post-antibiotic era’. One of the biggest global health


stories of modern times is undoubtedly HIV and AIDS, a phenomenon that took the medical world by surprise and travelled at what was then unprecedent- ed speed. Like other deadly contagious diseases, HIV quickly acquired an asso- ciated stigma. This has made it difficult to control, in spite of major investments in education programmes and drug development.


Aëdes aegypti – yellow-fever mosquito Wax Grace Edwards, 1914 RRa0313 / L0075807 Wellcome Images


Invertebrates are common transmitters, or vectors, of disease. The Aëdes aegypti mosquito spreads dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever, a virus affecting 200 000 people each year and causing 30 000 annual deaths. Despite the availability of a vaccine, these numbers are on the rise, particularly in West Africa.


— 40 —


…this was all my provision, and threw me into terrible agonies


of mind, that for a while I [ran] about like a Mad-man; Night coming upon me, I began with


a heavy Heart to consider what would be my Lot if there were


ravenous Beasts in that Country, seeing at Night they always come aboard for their Prey.


From Daniel Defoe’s The Life


and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, 1719


Over-sized models of invertebrates that transmit disease


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