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University of Rhode Island — Animal & Veterinary Science
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AVS 390 - Wildlife and Human Disease
Course Information

Professor: Dr. Thomas Mather
Semester: Spring
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: BIO 104B or 113 or 101; BIO 262 or ENT 385 or equivalent.

Catalog Description: Introduction to the important diseases of humans carried by wildlife, including surveillance, epidemiology, transmission, public health impact, and prevention. Interdisciplinary approach with emphasis on problem solving using real-life examples.

Course Goals & Outcomes

The goals of this course are:

  • To distinguish between classes of disease causing agents, routes of pathogen transmission and susceptible and non-susceptible hosts
  • The biology, ecology and potential management strategies of some of the most important zoonotic diseases
  • To practically apply the knowledge learned in this course to real-life situations
Course Syllabus

Class Topics

  • Why study zoonotic disease?
  • Epidemiological principles
  • Viruses, bacteria, protozoans, worms and detection
  • Biology of mosquitoes, ticks and fleas
  • Risk communication: principals and writing a good press release
  • Direct transmission: Avian flu, rabies, hantavirus
  • Tick-borne diseases (Lyme, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis)
  • Mosquito-borne diseases (West Nile Virus, EEE)
  • Flea-borne disease (Plague)
  • Prion disease, Trichinellosis and Cryptosporidiosis
  • Zoonoses as agents of bioterror
  • Tularemia

Grades will be based on the following criteria:

  • Homework
  • Participation
  • Exams
  • Final Exam
About The Professor

Thomas N. Mather, Ph.D.
Professor, Entomology
University of Rhode Island
Department of Plant Sciences
231 Woodward Hall
Kingston, RI 02881
Office: (401)874-5616
Fax: (401)874-2494

Dr. Mather's research interests are focused on medical entomology and vector ecology, particularly tick population suppression and transmission dynamics of tick-borne diseases. Dr. Mather has done extensive research on Lyme disease working towards the development of unique tick control strategies. Recent work has been focused around the program in Landscape Epidemiology which used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to develop spatial models of disease transmission risk. In addition to doing research and teaching several courses. Additionally, Dr. Mather is the director of URI's Center for Vector-Borne Disease.


  • B. S., Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA
  • M. S., University of Delaware, Newark, DE
  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI

Selected Publications

  • Kotsyfakis, M., A. Sa-Nunes, I. M. Francischetti, T. N. Mather, J. F. Anderson and J. M. Ribeiro. 2006. Anti inflammatory and immunosuppressive activity of sialostatin L, a salivary cystatin from the tick Ixodes scapularis. J Biol Chem.. (In Press)
  • Rodgers, S.E. and T. N. Mather. 2006. Evaluating satellite sensor-derived indices for Lyme disease risk prediction. J Med Entomol. 43(2): 337-43.
  • Ribeiro, J. M., F. Alarcon-Chaidez, I. M. Francischetti, B. J. Mans, T. N. Mather, J. G. Valenzuela and S. K. Wikel. 2006. An annotated catalog of salivary gland transcripts from Ixodes scapularis ticks. Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 36(2):111-29.
Reasons To Take This Course

"This class was so interesting and I feel like I learned so much. We did a couple of hands on experiments with mice, involving ticks and how to prevent them from attaching onto a host. We also went to a local school to trap mice and do a simulated Hanta Virus investigation. I would recommend this class to any one interested in diseases and animals. You will learn a lot!" - Bethany

"Zoonotic disease like bird flu, West Nile, and lyme disease are such hot topics right now. AVS 390 helped me to understand these issues much better. I learned the down and dirty details about transmission cycles, infection, vector/host relationships, control, and how to handle outbreaks. I feel like I am now well informed enough to see beyond the hype in the news stories and comprehend the actual facts of the situation." - Emily

"AVS 390 is a 3 credit class on wildlife and human disease. Besides learning about zoonotic diseases, I gained knowledge about new epidemics that are threatening the health of animals and humans across the world. I would recommend this class because it helped me to understand many of the potential catastrophic diseases that are discussed in the news daily. In AVS 390, I also benefited by learning about the etiologic agents that cause these diseases and how they can be prevented." - Renée

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