zoonotic diseases

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Non-review of book ‘Spillover’ and the threat of deadly red herrings | 

Flickr, JudyGr

The risk of red herrings

I have always loved the work of David Quammen, someone I would describe as a science adventure writer. Quammen was in Seattle recently to promote his new book about the animal-human disease connection, Spillover. It’s getting good reviews, such as in Time magazine and the New York Times.

This is a non-review of Quammen’s book because I haven’t read it and missed the lecture.

My purpose here is only to use Quammen’s book tour to point out the risk of deadly red herrings. Continue reading

‘Species gaps’ exist in hunt for diseases that can jump to humans | 

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.

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Scientists say simplifying life on Earth will make us sick | 

A recent UN report on biodiversity says we’re doing a lot lately to simplify life on Earth — which is actually a bad thing. Life has evolved to be complex, rich and diverse. The current massive decline in biodiversity is expected to make the planet as a whole ecosystem a bit weaker, more fragile.

Now, scientists say loss of species diversity also raises the risk of human disease. But first, a quick look at what we mean by “biodiversity” by Mr. Christopher’s 7th period biology class:

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Paul Allen gives $26 million to WSU’s global animal health program | 

Wikimedia

Paul Allen

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has given $26 million to Washington State University’s School of Global Animal Health, the Associated Press reported today, the largest donation WSU has ever received.

That’s a million more than the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave to launch this program a few years ago, which is now being used to construct a new global health animal sciences building that today was named after Allen. Maybe that’s due to the $1 million more or because Allen is a Coug and Gates is not.

And that was about all we learned, even though there should have been much more to say about WSU’s role in studying the animal-to-human disease link. Continue reading