UM hantavirus study has COVID implications

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University of Montana disease ecologist Angela Luis, right, and Montana Tech professor Amy Kuenzi prepare to collect data from a deer mouse to learn how hantavirus spreads.

Rob Chaney Rob Chaney

First, unclench: Hantavirus does not need to be added to your COVID-driven disease worry list.

Second: Yes, the $2.5-million grant University of Montana wildlife disease ecologist Angela Luis recently received to study hantavirus does have some implications for COVID research.

It might help us understand how changes in wildlife habitat affect zoonotic diseases — the kinds that jump from animals to humans, as COVID and hantavirus both do.

“In the last 50 years, the number of disease outbreaks in humans have increased, and that’s largely from spillovers from wildlife,” said Luis, an associate professor at UM’s Franke College of Forestry and Conservation. “The big question is what are people doing to the ecosystem that could make these spillovers from wildlife more common? Does removing biodiversity affect the likelihood these diseases will jump to humans?”

Hantavirus jumped on the American radar in

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