Monkeypox cases incite WHO fears of more Zoonotic diseases

With the spread of monkeypox across the world coming hot on the heels of Covid-19, there are fears that increasing outbreaks of diseases that jump from animals to humans could spark another pandemic.

While such diseases-called zoonoses- have been around for millennia, they have become more common in recent decades due to deforestation, mass livestock cultivation, climate change and other human-induced upheavals of the animal world, experts say. Other diseases to leap from animals to humans include HIV, Ebola, Zika, SARS, MERS, bird flu and the bubonic plague.

The World Health Organisation said on Thursday that it is still investigating the origins of Covid, but the “strongest evidence is still around zoonotic transmission”. And with more than 1,000 monkeypox cases recorded globally over the last month, the UN agency has warned there is a “real” risk the disease could become established in dozens of countries.

The WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan said last week that “it’s not just in monkeypox -the way that humans and animals interact has become unstable. The number of times that these diseases cross into humans is increasing and then our ability to amplify that disease and move it on within our communities is increasing,” he said.

Despite its name, “the latest monkeypox outbreak has nothing to do with monkeys,” said Olivier Restit, epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge. While it was first discovered in macaques, “zoonotic transmission is most often from rodents, and outbreaks spread by person-to-person contact,” he told AFP. Around 60 per cent of all known human infections are zoonotic, as are 75 per cent of all new and emerging infectious diseases.

The number of zoonotic pathogens and outbreaks have increased in the past few decades due to population growth, livestock growth and encroachment into wildlife habitats. Benjamin Roche, a specialist in zoonoses at France’s Institute of Research for Development, said that deforestation has had a major effect.

And worse may be to come, with a major study published earlier this year warning that climate change is ramping the risk of another pandemic. As animals flee their warming natural habitats, they will meet other species for the first time potentially infecting them with some of the 10,000 zoonotic viruses believed to be circulating silently among wild mammals, mostly in tropical forests, the study said.


Daily Tribune

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