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Published On: Mon, Dec 16th, 2013

Seventy percent of the new diseases in humans are of animal origin: FAO report

There are numerous reasons why and how diseases jump species–from animals to humans–according to an FAO report released today that focuses on root causes and prevention of these emerging diseases.

Severe acute respiratory virus (SARS) virions Image/CDC

Severe acute respiratory virus (SARS) virions
Image/CDC

Seventy percent of the new diseases that have emerged in humans over recent decades are of animal origin and, in part, directly related to the human quest for more animal-sourced food, according to the report, World Livestock 2013: Changing Disease Landscapes.

The ongoing expansion of agricultural lands into wild areas, coupled with a worldwide boom in livestock production, means that “livestock and wildlife are more in contact with each other, and we ourselves are more in contact with animals than ever before,” said Ren Wang, FAO Assistant Director-General for Agriculture and Consumer Protection.

“What this means is that we cannot deal with human health, animal health, and ecosystem health in isolation from each other – we have to look at them together, and address the drivers of disease emergence, persistence and spread, rather than simply fighting back against diseases after they emerge,” he added.

Developing countries face a staggering burden of human, zoonotic and livestock diseases, according to the report, creating a major impediment to development and food safety. Recurrent epidemics in livestock affect food security, livelihoods, and national and local economies in poor and rich countries alike.

Globalization and climate change are redistributing pathogens, vectors, and hosts, and pandemic risks to humans caused by pathogens of animal origin present a major concern.

In addition, food safety hazards and antibiotic resistance are on the increase worldwide.

Ongoing population growth and poverty – coupled with inadequate health systems and sanitation infrastructure – remain major drivers in disease dynamics, the report notes.

But in the push to produce more food, humans have carved out vast swaths of agricultural land in previously wild areas – putting themselves and their animals into contact with wildlife-borne diseases.

Indeed, a majority of the infectious diseases that have emerged in humans since the 1940s can be traced back to wildlife, notes FAO’s report. For instance, it is likely that the SARS virus emerging in humans was first transmitted by bats to masked palm civets and eventually spilled over to humans via animal markets.  In other cases, the opposite occurs – livestock introduce pathogens into natural areas, affecting wildlife health.

Meanwhile, greater numbers of human beings are on the move than ever before, and the volume of goods and products being traded internationally is at unprecedented levels – giving disease-causing organisms the ability to travel the globe with ease.

Read the FAO News Release for more

About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. World Food Concerns | WIN ~ World Information Network says:

    […] Seventy percent of the new diseases in humans are of animal origin: FAO report […]

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