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Zoonotic Diseases

  • Category
    Health Issues
  • Published
    16th Jul, 2020


According to a new report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), about 60 percent of known infectious diseases in humans and 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic.


Insights of the Report

  • Report Name: Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission.
  • Released on: ‘World Zoonoses Day’ (July 6).
  • The report discussed the context and nature of potential future zoonotic disease outbreaks, during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • It identified seven anthropogenic driving factors leading to the emergence of zoonotic diseases:
    • Increased demand for animal protein
    • Rise in intense and unsustainable farming
    • The increased use and exploitation of wildlife
    • Unsustainable utilization of natural resources
    • Travel and transportation
    • Changes in food supply chains
    • The climate change crisis.

zoonoses or Zoonotic Disease

  • It is a disease that has passed into the human population from an animal source directly or through an intermediary species.
  • Zoonotic infections can be bacterial, viral, or parasitic in nature, with animals playing a vital role in maintaining such infections.
  •  Examples of zoonoses include HIV-AIDS, Ebola, Lyme disease, malaria, rabies, West Nile fever, and the current novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) disease.

World Zoonoses Day

  •  It is held every year to commemorate the first vaccination against a zoonotic disease that was successfully administered by Louis Pasteur, a French biologist, on July 6, 1885.
  • The day is also marked to raise awareness about the risk of zoonotic diseases.

Analysis of the factors

  • Increased demand for animal-derived food: It has encouraged the intensification and industrialization of animal production (a large number of genetically similar animals are bred in for higher productivity and disease resistance).
  • Intensive farm settings cause animals to be raised close to each other, in less ideal conditions characterized by limited biosecurity and animal husbandry, poor waste management, and use of antimicrobials as a substitute for these conditions.
    • High use of antimicrobials in such farm settings is also contributing to the burden of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which itself is a chronic pandemic of high cumulative damage threatening public global public health.
  • The loss of forest cover for agricultural purposes is influencing the emergence of zoonotic diseases by increasing human access to wildlife.
  • Environment-Wildlife Interface: The increased use and exploitation of wildlife can bring humans in closer contact with wild animals.
  • Utilization of natural resources owing to urbanization, changes in land-use patterns, and growing industrialization can also cause destruction and fragmentation of wildlife habitats and increase contact between humans and wildlife.

Recommendations suggested by the report

  • The UNEP and ILRI emphasized on the importance of a ‘One-Health’ approach to manage and prevent zoonotic disease outbreaks and pandemics. The report made ten recommendations based on the One Health approach which includes:
    • Raising awareness of zoonotic diseases;
    • Investing in interdisciplinary approaches, including One Health;
    • Expanding scientific inquiry into zoonotic diseases;
    • Improving cost-benefit analyses of interventions to include full-cost accounting of societal impacts of disease;
    • Strengthening monitoring and regulation practices associated with zoonotic diseases, including food systems;
    • Incentivizing sustainable land management practices and developing alternatives for food security and livelihoods that do not rely on the destruction of habitats and biodiversity;
    • Improving biosecurity and control, identifying key drivers of emerging diseases in animal husbandry and encouraging proven management and zoonotic disease control measures;
    • Supporting the sustainable management of landscapes and seascapes that enhance sustainable co-existence of agriculture and wildlife;
    • Strengthening capacities among health stakeholders in all countries;
    • Operationalising the One Health approach in land-use and sustainable development planning, implementation, and monitoring, among other fields.

Way Forward

  • There is an immediate need to invest in an in-depth understanding of environmental linkages with zoonotic diseases, monitoring of such diseases in human-dominated environments, investigating how environmental change or degradation is impacting zoonotic disease emergence.
  • We must follow sustainable methods of food production and reduce dependence on intensive systems to preserve health and ecosystems.

    United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

    • Established: 5 June, 1972
    • Headquarters: Nairobi, Kenya
    • Reports: Global Environment Outlook, Actions on Air Quality, Emission Gap Report, Rise of Environmental Crime (by UNEP & Interpol).

    International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

    • Established: 21 September, 1994
    • Headquarters: Nairobi, Kenya
    • ILRI’s mission is to improve food and nutritional security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research for efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock—ensuring better lives through livestock.

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