News / Health

Animal-Related Diseases Concern Scientists

Zulima Palacio

Health researchers and wildlife biologists say the number of infectious diseases that have jumped the boundary from animals to humans and between animal species is on the rise.  Scientists believe the increase may be a result of more frequent contact between humans and wild animals, as well as the growing trade in wild animals, both legal and illegal.

Towards the end of the 1990s, several Asian countries lived one of their worst health nightmares. A new, highly pathogenic, strain of Avian Influenza known as H5N1 killed hundreds of people. Over the next years, more than 9-million chickens were destroyed in an effort to stem the epidemic.  Scientists believe the H5N1 virus was transmitted from wild birds to domestic poultry and pigs, which then passed it to humans. H5N1 is just the latest of various influenza strains that have killed up to 100 million people over the last century.  

Now scientists are concerned about the appearance of new illnesses.  Jonathan Sleeman is the director of the National Wildlife Health Center at the U.S. Geological Survey.

"Human health, wildlife health and domestic animal health are all interconnect within the context of the environment," said Sleeman.  "And environmental changes and changes in environmental quality will have negative impacts in all 3 groups."

Experts say there are many causes: the increasingly rapid movement of people and animals around the world, increasing human contact with and consumption of wildlife, and the legal and illegal trade in wild animals.  

"It's no longer a wildlife conservation issue, it's no longer a separate human issue.  It's a combination. It's both a conservation and human health issue," added said Sleeman.

Scientists from a variety of disciplines met recently in Washington to share their concerns about pathogens spreading from animals to humans.

It's not a new problem.  The AIDS virus, HIV, is now known to have originated from a similar virus in African chimpanzees. An estimated 30-million people have died of AIDS since the early 1980s. Other human diseases with animal origins include SARS, Ebola hemorrhagic fever and West Nile encephalitis.

New animal illnesses generally originate in invasive species.  Zebra mussels that have spread throughout the U.S. Great Lake introduced a type of botulism that has killed some 100,000 birds in the last decade. A fungus spread by the trade in amphibians has led to the extinction of about 120 species of frogs around the world.

Many other imported, exotic animals escape or are released into local ecosystems. They disrupt native ecologies, out-compete native species and potentially spread new diseases.

Jonathan Epstein, with the EcoHealth Alliance, says 13 million animals have been confiscated in the past few decades, as part of the illegal trade in exotic species.

"The global illegal wildlife trade is second only to the trade in narcotics and weapons," said Epstein.  "Just between 2000 and 2006, we had about 1.5 billion animals imported into the U.S."

Experts say more attention must be paid to the human disruption of wildlife and ecosystems to avoid the emergence of other infectious diseases with deeper and even more severe consequences.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
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 Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

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 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 Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
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 Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic 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.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

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