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Research comment
The known unknowns: recognition and awareness of disease
  1. Richard Wall
  1. Veterinary Parasitology and Ecology Group, University of Bristol, Life Sciences Building, 24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TQ, UK
  1. E-mail: richard.wall{at}

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When teaching parasitology, one particularly difficult task is to get people to look for and recognise something that is not there. Couplets in diagnostic keys often ask whether a feature is ‘present’ or ‘absent’ and absence may be a key distinguishing feature. It leads to some difficult conversations in the lab, with students asking how they are supposed to know what to look for if a feature they have never seen is absent. Convincing them of the importance of something that is not immediately apparent can be tricky. Similarly, when thinking about parasites and vectorborne pathogens, getting people to be aware of and interested in diseases that are not currently a problem and which they have never seen is not straightforward – but is nevertheless essential.

Long-term changes in climate, increasing globalisation, extensive movements of people and their animals across Europe and changes in approaches to habitat management and land use are all having increasing impacts on the risk of introduction and establishment of novel parasites, vectors and vectorborne disease. This was highlighted 10 years ago with the introduction of bluetongue1 and more …

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