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Aspens bust, diseased mice boom

Decline of Western trees swells population of rodents that carry sin nombre virus

12:16pm, January 7, 2011

SALT LAKE CITY — Recent diebacks of aspen trees in the U.S. West may end up increasing the risk posed by a lethal human pathogen, a new study suggests.

A tree-killing syndrome called sudden aspen decline that has wiped out swaths of trees across the West in the past decade has also changed the kinds, numbers and interactions of creatures living around the trees, researchers have found — including some carriers of human disease. Deer mice at hard-hit sites in 2009 were almost three times as likely to carry sin nombre virus — which can be fatal to humans — compared with mice in less-ravaged

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