Web Zap*Germs Archive

June 15, 2004

SARS One of Many Zoonotic (Cross-Species) Infectious Diseases Dangerous to Humans

New Straits Times (Malaysia) reports that the World Health Organization believes that recent instances of human infection by animal-originated diseases -- such as SARS and Ebola virus -- will accelerate in coming years. And, that the next epidemic might be more difficult to contain than SARS, which was identified and contained quickly due to international cooperation.

Most zoonotic diseases [illnesses that spread from animals to humans] have the potential to spread beyond their region of origin and most countries are ill-equipped to counter the trend, WHO believes.

Experts says there are several factors that contribute to the increase in cross-species infections:

- the growing world population, as humans venture into previously undisturbed parts of the world and encounter new animals and their indigenous pathogens;

- exotic animal trade — as pets and food. The global movement of these animals has created what some experts say is a "viral traffic" or "microbial traffic", which encourages the shift of zoonoses to humans.


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