"It would be comforting to believe that the deaths of tens of millions of people, or more, as depicted in the movie 'Contagion' is merely science fiction, but something that resembles what is depicted there could happen under a certain set of circumstances."
In the 20th century, the world experienced three influenza pandemics that collectively killed more than 40 million people, Smith and Njabo noted.
In addition to studying pigs, Njabo and colleagues have also collected samples from hundreds of wild birds, ducks and chickens in Cameroon and Egypt. Their colleagues at other institutions are conducting similar studies in China, Bangladesh and elsewhere.
Smith and Njabo work with UCLA's Global Bio Lab, in collaboration with Hilary Godwin, a professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA School of Public Health, to identify new diseases, speed up the development of new vaccines and try to prevent the next pandemic.
"The world is a global village; no area is truly isolated," said Njabo, who was born and raised in Cameroon. "There are so many unknowns about the transmission rates of viruses between humans and wild animals. We have to expand screening."
Since 2007, Njabo has gone to Cameroon two to three times a year to collect samples and is there currently. He informed the government's Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries, and Animal Industries of the findings to try to reduce the spread of the disease. Smith, Njabo and colleagues will hold a workshop in Cameroon next year to tell people how to raise pigs in a way that reduces the risk of disease.
|Contact: Stuart Wolpert|
University of California - Los Angeles