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Tracking down sources of disease outbreaks around the world

Joel Montgomery spends most of his time working with his team of epidemiologists to suppress outbreaks of dengue fever and Rift Valley fever in Kenya.

"Both are mosquito-borne diseases that can be fatal," Montgomery said. "We're concerned about Rift Valley fever getting to the U.S., because it can infect cattle."

But on a recent trip to Bedford, Montgomery focused his attention on a virus that's been a problem in North Texas this year - West Nile - and found potential villains in his mother's backyard pond.

"It's full of mosquito larvae," he said. "I can't leave it like this."

Montgomery, a graduate of L.D. Bell High School and the University of Texas at Arlington, is now back at work in Africa, where he was recently named director of the Global Disease Detection center and the International Emerging Infections Program in Nairobi, Kenya.

He is charged with tracking down diseases and preventing them from coming to the United States, a job that has been glamorized in Richard Preston's true-story "Hot Zone," which tracks the Ebola virus from the African rain forest to the U.S., and the movie "Contagion," where epidemiologists chase a lethal pandemic.

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