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Wildlife Conservation Society to expand health surveillance through PREDICT
Date:10/23/2009

rse of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health as Director of PREDICT. Morse said that, historically, pandemics occurred perhaps every 30 to 40 years. "But in our modern world, the chances of novel diseases or even a new pandemic emerging are higher than ever, because of how we live and the extent to which we travel. Our human settlements and roadways push deeper into forests and wild areas where we now raise livestock and poultry; and we transport ourselves, our animals and our food farther and faster around the globe."

The PREDICT team will be active in global hotspots where important wildlife host species have significant interaction with domestic animals and high-density human populations. They may include South America's Amazon Basin, Africa's Congo Basin and neighboring Rift Valley, South Asia's Gangetic Plain, and Southeast Asia. Those conditions enable the spread of microbes, especially viruses and bacteria, from animals to humans.

Among the 1,461 pathogens recognized to cause diseases in humans, at least 60 percent are of animal origin. Notable outbreaks of these animal-to-human diseases, or zoonoses (pronounced ZO-oh-NO-sees), include:

  • The 1918 influenza pandemic, which was probably caused by a virus that jumped from birds, killed over 50 million people globally;
  • The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which moved from chimpanzees to people, and now infects more than 33 million individuals;
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which emerged in 2003 from southern China "wet markets" where live wild animals are sold for food; and
  • The recent outbreaks of avian influenza H5N1, or "bird flu."

In a global pandemic today, a quarter of the world's population could be infected and between 51 million and 81 million people could die, with the toll in the United States exceeding 400,000 casualties.


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Contact: John Delaney
jdelaney@wcs.org
718-220-3275
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert

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