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Zoonotic diseases and global viral pandemics
Date:2/17/2014

Emergence of new microbes

While many endemic infectious diseases of humans have been largely contained, new microbes continue to emerge to threaten human and animal health. Such emerging infectious diseases are not confined to humans and their livestock but extend to wildlife ecosystems; the finely-tuned dynamic balance of which is destabilised by human interventions. The changes in the scale and manner of livestock production and marketing, the increase of global travel and trade including the trade in domestic livestock as well as the pet animal trade, the increasing encroachment into stable ecosystems and ecological changes, all contribute to novel disease emergence. Over two-third of novel emerging pathogens are zoonotic in origin. Because of their higher intrinsic mutation rates and adaptability in crossing species barriers, RNA viruses are the cause of many of these novel emerging infections.

Economic Impacts

In addition to their impacts on human health, such novel emerging pathogens often have huge economic, social, and sometimes political consequences. Recent examples are the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS (estimated global economic impact was US$42 billion), the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, MERS, the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 (global impact US$20 billion up to 2009), the avian influenza H7N9, the Nipah virus and (though not a virus) the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, BSE (US$16 billion within UK alone).

Detection, Response and Prevention

While many of these have arisen in Asia, such outbreaks may arise anywhere (e.g. BSE in UK, pandemic H1N1 2009 in North America). Early detection and response is crucial for effective disease containment or mitigation. Bio-surveillance for unusual disease events (unusual disease patterns or clusters of cases) is important to target diagnostic efforts. Networks such as GOARN and Promed have
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Contact: Grace Ng
gracesk@hku.hk
852-281-99995
University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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