News / Africa

Animal-to-Human Disease Cycle Widening

Animal-borne diseases are a growing threat. (ILRI)Animal-borne diseases are a growing threat. (ILRI)
x
Animal-borne diseases are a growing threat. (ILRI)
Animal-borne diseases are a growing threat. (ILRI)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Nearly two-and-a-half billion people become ill every year from diseases transmitted from animals. Most are in low- and middle-income countries. A new study lists the top geographical hotspots for these diseases, including the United States.

Of the billions infected every year, more than two million die from diseases called zoonoses.

“Zoonoses are diseases which are transmitted between animals and people. A majority of human diseases are actually zoonotic. More than 60 percent of human diseases are transmitted from other vertebrate animals,” said Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi.

“Some of these diseases are pretty common. Some of the food- borne diseases and also diseases such as tuberculosis, leptospirosis are not uncommon. Others are quite rare. So it depends a little bit on the disease,” she said.



There are many different infection pathways.

“In terms of human infections, probably the most common transmission pathway is food. People getting sick from food they eat. But other transmission pathways include direct contact with animals. And also some of these can be transmitted via the water, through water, and others can be transmitted through the air,” she said.

Grace is the lead author of the report called "Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonosis Hotspots."

“Most of these diseases are of pretty low impact. Diseases like avian influenza or mad cow disease have actually killed very few people. But they are of interest because some of them have the potential to kill a lot of people – diseases like the Spanish flu after the First World War or HIV/AIDS, both of which were originally zoonosis,” she said.

The report includes information on both old and new diseases.

“So in terms of the hotspots of the zoonosis which are there all the time – not the new zoonosis, but what we call the endemic zoonosis – we identified three countries, which bear the greatest burden of these diseases. And those are India, Ethiopia and Nigeria. But in terms of the new diseases – the diseases which haven’t been there, but are emerging – the hotspots are very different. They appear to be western United States and Western Europe,” she said.

The report is based on an analysis of over 1,000 surveys. Grace describes the findings as alarming, creating major problems for both people and animals.

Also, things could get worse in the coming years as meat production sharply increases to feed a rapidly growing world population. The U.N. predicts a population of nine billion by 2050, up from the current level of seven billion. High production farms often raise animals in very tight quarters. That can allow diseases to spread quickly. Another potential problem is the use of antibiotics in animals that can mask disease symptoms.

“What our study found,” she said, “is that for the pigs and poultry, which are most rapidly increasing – because these are the systems which can quickly gear-up to meet the needs of rapidly expanding human populations – that they are associated with a far higher level of food-borne disease than the sheep and cattle and buffalos, the more kind of slowly growing systems. So the alarming thing here is that unless we better manage zoonosis we can expect to see a lot more food-borne diseases.”

Grace said the know-how exists to build barriers to reduce disease transmission to both people and wildlife. However, putting it into practice can be a challenge. Rather than increasing food inspections, the report recommends an “incentive-based” system to encourage safer methods of raising animals. One incentive is to provide training and branding for small farmers leading to official certification that their products are safe. Another is to develop home testing kits that would allow consumers to learn whether their food is contaminated.

Grace said poverty and disease are closely linked, adding preventing animal disease transmission can help alleviate poverty.

You May Like

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid