• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the national park.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

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  • Trail Advisory

    Several trails in the park are temporarily closed. Please check the "Backcountry Facilities" section of the Temporary Road and Facilities Closures page for further details. More »

Park Partners: April-May, 2009

Zoonotic diseases survey

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are conducting a study of employees within national parks to assess how many have—or have been exposed to—zoonotic diseases. A zoonotic disease is one that can be passed from animals to humans, either directly (such as rabies, which is transmitted in an animal bite) or via a vector on the animal (such as a tick or flea that bites the infected animal and then bites a human). In particular, researchers are comparing park employees from Great Smoky Mountains with those from Rocky Mountain National Park. The study is in its second year; during the initial stage, 79 employees from the Smokies gave blood that was tested for presence of zoonotic diseases, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (which is actually more common in the southeast than in the Rockies, because several ticks carry it), lyme disease, cat scratch disease, hantavirus, and more. While these results told researchers all of the diseases that Park employees already had, it didn’t tell them which had come from their time at the Smokies. During the first week of May, researchers took a second round of blood samples, which they will use to identify zoonotic diseases that people have contracted in the last year; this can help them identify which are most prevalent in this area. Final results are due out next year.

Return to Resource Roundup: April-May, 2009.

 

Did You Know?

Flame azalea can be found growing on heath balds in the park.

The park’s high elevation heath balds are treeless expanses where dense thickets of shrubs such as mountain laurel, rhododendron, and sand myrtle grow. Known as “laurel slicks” and “hells” by early settlers, heath balds were most likely created by forest fires long ago. More...