SAN ANTONIO - Hundreds of Texas' leading scientists and researchers met in San Antonio this week to look to the future of the state and what challenges and opportunities will come our way.
Texas' rapidly growing population is more diverse and younger than ever which presents both opportunities and potential problems. Experts say the combination of this influx of people with climate change, urbanization and poverty have led to the perfect environment for infectious diseases to spread.
"What we're seeing is all of those forces combined to cause the rise of a whole group of infectious diseases. Quite a number of them are transmitted by insects so they include dengue and chikungunya virus," said Dr. Peter Hotez from the Texas Children's Hospital and the Sabin Vaccine Institute.
With cases of Ebola and Zika viruses in Texas in recent years, these leading thinkers say it's more important than ever for Texans to be vigilant.
"We don't really know the full extent of these diseases because we're not going into the community and sampling human populations and sampling the mosquitoes," Dr. Hotez said.
It's not all bad news, though, researchers say Texas' changing demographics can also be an opportunity.
"Texas has the opportunity to be at the forefront of the new America and to be where all of America is going to be in about 25 to 30 years as a model of what this country can be," said Stephen Klineberg, the Sociology professor at Rice University.
He says the key to the future is education.
"A new economy with blue collar jobs and the resource economy has disappeared and have increasingly faded away and are being replaced with a knowledge economy where education has become a critical determinant as to whether a person is able to support a family," Klineberg said.
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