MISSUE NO. 3616 

April 19 - 24, 2013


 Coastweek   Kenya

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Animal-originated diseases
pose grave threats to humans

between 60 and 75 percent of new or emerging
infectious diseases of humans in the last five
decades had originated from the animals

DAR ES SALAAM (Xinhua) -- Medical experts warned on Wednesday that infectious diseases from wild animals to humans are equally deadly and that coordinated efforts must be made to contain them.

The experts cited Ebola, Marlburg, Rift Valley Fever and other deadly viral diseases which originate from wild animals and have wreaked havoc in the East African region recently, urging for swift investigation, detection and response to the outbreaks. 

Speaking at the annual scientific conference organized by the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), the experts said there is great need for the responsible authorities to jointly strengthen efforts against outbreak of such diseases like other leading killers.

Prof. Mark Rweyemamu, executive director of the Southern Africa Center for Infectious Disease Surveillance (SACIDS), said the disease landscape in the continent is changing and that member countries must change with new technologies in addressing the health threats to humans.

For instance, he said the epidemiology of the livestock-killing foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus has not been deeply and consistently studied in Tanzania and Zambia which have the highest animal population in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region.

For a long time, FMD cases have continuously been reported to occur in the two countries involving vaccinated and non-vaccinated animals while factors contributing to its infection and endemicity in susceptible animal populations are not clearly known.

The deputy minister for Health and Social Welfare Seif Rashid emphasized inter-sectoral and integrated approach among researchers in the disease surveillance and control, noting that veterinary experts should be adequately involved.

Tanzanian Vice President Mohamed Gharib Bilal echoed the view, saying the emergence of new infectious diseases, most of them zoonotic in nature appear to be on the rise, increasingly posing yet another burden to the health delivery services in Africa. 

According to the VP, who officially opened the four-day conference on Tuesday evening in Arusha, between 60 and 75 percent of new or emerging infectious diseases of humans in the last five decades had originated from the animals.

He said the Tanzania government now recognizes that communicable diseases are increasingly respecting no zoological species boundaries, commending medical research organizations that embarked their efforts on how to contain diseases that affect both the humans and wild animals.

According to Dr. Julius Keyyu, the director of research with the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), diseases which were traditionally confined to wild animals but which pose a threat to humans and livestock include rabies, anthrax, brucellosis, and bovine tuberculosis (TB).

He said approximately 60 percent of existing human pathogens and over 75 percent of those which have appeared during the past two decades can be traced back to animals “with proven link to wildlife.”


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