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Zoonotic diseases

  May 13, 2020

Zoonotic diseases

Why in the news?

The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis has brought the focus back on the Zoonotic diseases.

What are Zoonotic diseases?

Zoonosis or zoonotic diseases is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen (an infectious agent, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, prions, etc) that has jumped from non-human i.e. animals (usually vertebrates) to humans.

Major Zoonotic diseases of 21st century

  1. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, H1N1 (swine flu) in 2009 spread from civet cats/ pangolin and bats in China.
  2. Swine flu from an intensive pig farm in Mexico.
  3. Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) from camels
  4. Ebola from monkeys and pigs
  5. Rift Valley fever from livestock
  6. West Nile fever from birds
  7.  Zika from monkeys and Nipah from bats.

What are the root causes of the rise in Zoonotic diseases?

  1. Environmental destruction: Due to deforestation and habitat loss, wild animals and humans are now nearby, leading to the spillover of animal diseases into humans. Ebola, West Nile virus, Nipah and Zika come under this category. 
  2. Cultural practices: The practice of eating exotic wildlife, sometimes raw, is spreading novel pathogens to humans. Both SARS and Covid-19 have their origins in the wildlife markets in China. 
  3. Intensive animal farms: The industrial farming of animals, by keeping animals very close to each other and pumping them with growth promoters like antibiotics, is another cause. Bird flu and swine flu both have their origin in intensive animal farms.
  4. In a globalised world, weak regulations and poor implementation in one country have global ramifications.