Human Threat: The Increasing Animal-Transmitted Diseases, UN says

Animal-transmitted diseases, also known as zoonotic diseases or zoonoses, have been imposing harm to human health since time immemorial. It is regarded as one of the most worrying environmental threats, along with the accumulation of toxins on root crops due to the drastic climate change and pollution, based on the report released by UN’s Frontier last Friday, May 20, 2016.

Zoonoses commonly transpire during unfavorable events such as climate change, famines and typhoon. Fortunately, most zoonotic diseases are not life threatening. Conversely, let’s take note that a small percentage of the diseases acquired from animals impose enormous impact to humans, such as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV and AIDS), Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease) and Avian Influenza (bird flu).

Zoonotic diseases have caused fear to all nations as they could possibly cause major pandemics. Some of the diseases that made their way to different countries are the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola, bird flu, Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Zika Virus.

“Around 60 percent of all infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic as are 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases,” the report said. Additionally, about 1 new infectious disease emerges every 4 months.

Most of the zoonoses are from wildlife, however, livestock has become the vector of most diseases to pass on to humans. One example is the bird flu, which initially circulated among wild birds, which later on infected domestic poultry.

Violations of the natural ecosystems through resource exploitation, human settlements and agricultural activities are the reasons why these pathogens were passed from animals to humans. These encroachments lead to climate changes that alter the environment conditions, such as disease transmission and outbreak frequency.

Based on the report, “In the last two decades, emerging diseases have had direct costs of more than US$100 billion; if these outbreaks had become human pandemic, the losses would have mounted to several trillion dollars.”

There are three known organizations that help mandate the continuous increase of zoonotic diseases. These are the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nation (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO) and World Animal Health Organization (OIE). They have formulated effective and successful management methods to control and eradicate endemic diseases. However, these will again transpire after an initial suppression if they fail to maintain these control measures.

There are several successful management that has been done to help control and cure zoonoses. One example is the SARS, presently known as coronavirus, which emerged in Southeast Asia. Within a span of 6 months, the cause was expounded, medications were formulated, and transmission was successfully controlled.

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