When you’re not dead yet, but aren’t feeling well either, there’s an EarthWord for that...
USGS EarthWord of the Week
EarthWords is an on-going series in which we shed some light on the complicated, often difficult-to-pronounce language of science. Think of us as your terminology tour-guides, and meet us back here every week for a new word!
The EarthWord: Morbidity
Morbidity isn’t when you have gallows humor, but rather when an organism is diseased or ill for any cause.
It can also refer to the percentage of a group that is diseased, i.e., a cave with bats where three quarters of them have been infected with white-nose syndrome has a morbidity of 75%.
Morbidity can result from infectious diseases, exposure to contaminants, lack of nutrients, etc.
Morbidity can lead to death, but does not have to.
Morbidity comes from the Latin word morbus, which meant “sick,” or “diseased.”
Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:
Morbidity is an important concept in both epidemiology and toxicology, as it’s a key indicator of the presence of either an infectious disease or exposure to toxic contaminants.
USGS studies wildlife morbidity due to infectious disease in its Fish and Wildlife Disease Program.
USGS studies wildlife morbidity due to contaminant exposure in its Contaminants Biology and Toxic Substances Hydrology Programs.
Next EarthWord: “Whatcha gonna do when they come for you”-thinks this week’s EarthWord...
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