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)
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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid