Graduate student Kevin Bakker’s newly discovered patterns in old outbreaks of childhood diseases garnered press attention while he was at Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting.
Bakker analyzed more than a century of newly digitized infectious disease records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for diphtheria, polio, scarlet fever and typhoid fever. He discovered that these diseases swept from south to north across the United States. He is a Ph.D. student and disease ecologist in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan.
"There's never really been a study of peak timing for a few of these diseases," Bakker told Live Science. "We have these cool geographic patterns that nobody has ever seen before."
Bakker’s results are preliminary. Next, he’ll look for why scarlet fever and diphtheria begin in the Southeast. Eventually, the findings could help control the spread of these diseases in developing countries, by showing the time of year when vaccination campaigns would be most effective.