The Associated Press
Animal disease experts examine a pig on a farm in Yunlin County, central Taiwan.
By Lisa Stiffler, special correspondent
HIV, West Nile virus, swine flu, ebola – all are human diseases that are traced to livestock, wild creatures and insects from locations scattered around the globe. It can be harder to think of infectious ailments that didn’t start in animals, and in fact these so called “zoonotic pathogens” are to blame for more than 65 percent of emerging infectious disease events over the past 60 years, according to research.
Yet experts in the field say we’re still doing a crummy job watching for new disease outbreaks in animals that could jump to humans.
“One of the lessons of West Nile virus is that we have major species gaps in terms of surveillance, even today,” said Dr. Tracey McNamara, a professor of pathology at Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Veterinary Medicine in California.
The problem includes a lack of monitoring and reporting for wild animals, as well as urban and domesticated animals.
The Guardian has a good report today on the very important, but often neglected, connection between livestock in agriculture and human health.
Scientists call it zoonosis, but you can think of it as where HIV, cholera, avian flu, plague and many other (in fact, most) human diseases come from.
Though this natural evolutionary tendency for infectious bugs to move from infecting animals to humans (and vise versa) often happens in the wild, many experts think poor agricultural hygiene methods used in the developing world means it is happening with greater frequency on farms.
Says The Guardian:
A new human disease emerges around every four months, usually after jumping from animals. Many of these infections are minor and of interest only to microbiologists. But as intensive agricultural production expands and populations push into uninhabited areas, epidemics of devastating diseases, like Sars and HIV, which started out as animal pathogens, are likely to become more common.