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Study establishes importance of tracking diseases associated with illegal wildlife trade
Date:1/10/2012

NEW YORK An article released today in PLoS ONE entitled, Zoonotic Viruses Associated with Illegally Imported Wildlife Products, from a collaborative study led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), identified evidence of retroviruses and herpesviruses in illegally imported wildlife products confiscated at several U.S. international airports, including John F. Kennedy International Airport, George Bush Intercontinental-Houston and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International. The pilot program was initiated to establish surveillance and testing methods to uncover the potential public health risks from illegally imported wildlife products coming into the United States. The preliminary results of the program clearly demonstrate the potential human health risk from the illegal wildlife trade at major international travel hubs as a pathway to disease emergence in animals and humans.

Lead author and Associate Director for Health and Policy at EcoHealth Alliance, Dr. Kristine Smith, stated "although the findings to date are from a small pilot study, they remind us of the potential public health risk posed by illegal importation of wildlife products a risk we hope to better characterize through expanded surveillance at ports of entry around the country."

"The increase in international travel and trade brings with it an increased risk of unmonitored pathogens via the illegal wildlife trade," said Dr. Denise McAloose, chief pathologist for the Global Health Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The global trade of wildlife has largely contributed to the emergence of new diseases in livestock, native wildlife and humans worldwide. Current research shows that 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases affecting people originate from contact with wildlife. These wildlife-borne diseases can be transmitted through human-animal interactions inherent in the global wildlife trade.

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Contact: Anthony M. Ramos
ramos@ecohealthalliance.org
212-380-4469
American Museum of Natural History
Source:Eurekalert

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