Series

No two flu seasons are alike — from one year to the next, different types of the influenza virus dominate. Every year, virologists, health officials and healthcare providers marshall their resources to prevent and treat infections. When a flu season is particularly tough, as was the case in 2017-18, the illness tests limitations and vulnerabilities in the public health system. Wisconsin plays a crucial role in a nationwide network of influenza surveillance, which is also on guard for the emergence of a global flu pandemic. Meeting future challenges of influenza hinges on relationships that connect scientists and healthcare providers at local, state, federal and international levels.More
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Agriculture is a cornerstone of the Wisconsin economy, and farmers across the state rely on international markets for customers. The commodities exported around the world include some of Wisconsin's most common agricultural products, including cheese and soybeans, as well as a host of specialized products that have come to symbolize the state's bounty, such as ginseng and cranberries. In the early 21st century, Wisconsin's largest agricultural export destination by far has been Canada, followed by Mexico, China and other nations. Farmers who rely on exports face uncertainties driven by fluctuating international demand, variable commodities markets and shifts in global politics, including an escalating series of tariffs levied between the United States and some of its closest trading partners. These changing conditions have impacts that ripple across the state’s broader agricultural economy.More
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Billions of people around the world are closer to one another through an unprecedented network of connections, from commerce to tourism to education. One risk posed by this growing number of links, fueled by denser populations and swifter travel, is the speed at which infectious diseases can race across continents and leap over oceans. A novel coronavirus originating in China is an example of this phenomenon. Barely more than a month after the SARS-CoV-2 virus was identified, an infected patient was confirmed in Wisconsin. The emerging disease called COVID-19 has tested Wisconsin's public health infrastructure and caused officials, health care providers and residents to prepare for a potential outbreak in the state. The situation has also underscored how more common respiratory diseases like influenza challenge health authorities and the public.More
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Opioid overdoses kill hundreds of Wisconsinites every year, amid a nationwide surge in painkiller and heroin abuse that's been building since the turn of the century. Opioids are a category of pain relief drugs that include long-known substances like morphine and heroin, but also powerful synthetic pharmaceuticals like hydrocodone and fentanyl. Years of widespread opioid prescriptions helped initiate the crisis, and the increasing cheap cost of these drugs fueled the spread of abuse in rural, suburban and urban communities alike. All levels of government are mobilizing to address opioid abuse, and like many states, Wisconsin is adopting policies that focus on public health approaches over emphasizing criminalization. As the contours of this epidemic continues to shift, so do efforts to contain and reverse it among health care providers, law enforcement and community organizations.More
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Rural Wisconsin faces a broad array of economic challenges. Many communities are experiencing a decrease in population and struggling to retain young people and attract newcomers. As the workforce ages, additional factors including limited infrastructure, agricultural and manufacturing business woes, and the dictates of distance and cost can combine to frustrate entrepreneurial and job opportunities. At the same time, the distinct attributes of rural areas can encourage economic development, and both public and private efforts to revitalize individual communities and broader regions are being pursued around the state. One particularly notable element is access to broadband internet, which is sparse in many rural areas but has the potential to be transformational for both work and lifestyle. Rural Wisconsin's economy is changing, but its future course has yet to be charted.More
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