Animal Diseases / Animal Health / Emerging Diseases / Wildlife / Zoonotic Diseases

Changes in wildlife migration could alter disease risk–Science

Christine Ottery reports in SciDevNet last week (24 January 2011) on a review published in the scientific journal Science (21 January 2011) saying that the risk of animals passing diseases to humans could increase in some areas and decrease in others as people encroach on and disrupt wildlife migration paths.

‘. . . Although there is a general assumption that long-distance movements of migrating animals can increase the spread of pathogens, including zoonotic pathogens that jump from animals to humans, such as Ebola virus in bats and avian flu viruses in birds, the evidence for this is scarce, the review says. . . .

‘”One of the biggest surprises is that there aren’t a lot of clear, published cases of migratory species carrying infectious diseases. This could be partly because of the challenges of studying species across international borders . . .”

‘Jeff Waage, a biosafety expert and director of the UK’s London International Development Centre, told SciDev.Net: “This is the first time that people have looked at migratory species from a disease point of view, including how migration may affect humans and livestock. It is interesting because only ten years ago we had no idea that bats were an alternative host of some of the most serious human diseases, such as Ebola.”‘

‘Kate Jones, a wildlife epidemiologist at the UK’s Institute of Zoology in London, told SciDev.Net this review “has pulled together all of the complex issues regarding migration and infectious diseases, and has laid the foundation and a direction for future research.”‘

Read the whole article at SciDevNet: Changes in wildlife migration could alter disease risk, 24 January 2011.

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