Zoonotic diseases are caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Now that we’ve defined what it is, you should know that these species-jumping pathogens have caused more than 65 percent of infectious disease outbreaks worldwide over the past 60 years.
In addition to death and illness, researchers for the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council said in a report issued today that the economic losses attributed to these diseases have exceeded $200 billion in economic losses worldwide over the past 10 years.
For example, the U.S. beef industry alone lost $11 billion over three years after the detection of one cow with “mad cow disease,” the scientists reported.
The World Health Organization has identified more than 200 zoonotic diseases, some going back centuries. They involve all types of agents: bacteria, parasites, viruses and unconventional agents.
In addition to Swine flu or H1N1, the world of animals, bugs and birds have shared with humans everything from anthrax, avian flu, cholera, mad cow, Dengue fever, Ebola, rabies, plague to West Nile virus.
“Zoonotic diseases are like wildfires, which flare up unexpectedly and can take a significant toll on human and animal health and damage household livelihoods as well as national economies,” said Marguerite Pappaioanou, of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and co-chair of the group doing the report.
She said that all too often, the public health reaction to these outbreaks has been to try containing a wildfire after it has gotten out of control.
“We need a system that enables us to prevent the conditions for these disease flare-ups to occur in the first place and to spot them earlier when we can take more effective and measured actions to limit the damage,” she added.
The report said that significant weaknesses undermine the global community’s abilities to prevent, detect early, and respond efficiently to potentially deadly species-crossing microbes, such as the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus sweeping the globe.
In addition much greater coordination between physicians and veterinary medicine specialists, the team said there must be a detailed plan for establishing and funding a comprehensive, globally coordinated system to identify novel zoonotic disease threats as early as possible.
This is vital so appropriate measures can be taken to prevent significant numbers of human illnesses and deaths.
The report also calls for more honesty in reporting these outbreaks.
Greater transparency could improve control of animal diseases before they decimate livestock or wildlife or make large numbers of people sick, the report said.
The report, called “SUSTAINING GLOBAL SURVEILLANCE AND RESPONSE TO EMERGING ZOONOTIC DISEASES,” is 300 pages long. But here is a link to a summary of the report.
For more information on Zoonotic diseases, here is a link to the WHO website.