Friday, November 30, 2012

Predicting the next zoonotic pandemic

Excerpt: LONDON, 30 November 2012 (IRIN) - Chances are high the world’s next pandemic will be a disease originating in animals, like 60 percent of current documented human infectious diseases. Even after hundreds of thousands of human deaths from zoonoses (diseases transmitted from animals to humans), experts say there is still limited information about how zoonoses are spread or just how to predict the next outbreak. “There is no question of whether we will have another zoonotic pandemic,” wrote Stephen Morse, a public health professor at Columbia University in New York, in a November 2012 series on zoonoses in the UK medical journal, The Lancet. “The question is merely when, and where, the next pandemic will emerge.” -snip- The Nairobi-headquartered International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has pointed out how urban livestock and agriculture can breed disease in some of the world’s most crowded places. In a recent survey in Dagoretti, one of eight districts of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, the institute found up to 11 percent of households were affected by cryptosporidiosis, a diarrhoeal disease caused by a pathogen found in cattle, raw milk, soil, vegetables and contaminated water. Changing harvests may be another contributor to the spread of zoonoses. In the southwestern USA where El Niño (rising sea surface temperatures across the central and eastern Pacific Ocean) dumped more rain, vegetation growth increased, which then attracted more rats. Hantavirus is not fatal in rats - which carry the disease - but is in humans who became infected through the rats. The interplay of biology, ecology and sociology make forecasting the next pandemic difficult, say experts in the Lancet series who call for boosting cooperation between experts (often working in silos) to meet the “huge, and rising” threat of zoonoses.

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