'CLEAR AWARENESS': Keith Clark says epidemiologists have recongized the importance of geography in studying infectious diseases.
Adventurers of the 18th and 19th centuries in search of gold and new trade routes were not the only ones to value a good map: Early epidemiologists inspected the lay of the land in attempts to discern the causes and spread of diseases. But as unexplored frontiers slowly disappeared, geography came to be taken for granted. In fact, the number of classic epidemiology papers that take spatial patterns into account can be counted "on the fingers of two hands," according to Keith Clark, a geographer at the National Center for Geographical Information and Analysis in Santa Barbara, Calif., one of three centers in a National Science Foundation-funded research consortium.

The emergence of AIDS and antibiotic-resistant bacteria has fueled a rush to reestablish monitoring programs that were practically abandoned. Previous attempts to revive an...

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