A4NH / Agri-Health / Disease Control / Emerging Diseases / Human Health / ILRI / Kenya / Zoonotic Diseases

As livestock farming intensifies in poor countries, so can livestock–and livestock-to-human–diseases

A woman tethers her goats in a farm field in Busia, Kenya

The health of people and their farm animals in Kenya and other developing countries are closely linked (photo credit: ILRI/Charlie Pye-Smith).

‘While livestock contribute about 40 per cent of the value of agriculture and forms a crucial part of household wealth [in Kenya and many other developing countries], experts now say keeping animals is spreading disease and polluting the environment like never before.

‘They say that as smallholder agriculture intensifies—driven by increasing population, urbanisation and climate changes—livestock keeping is exhibiting its good and bad sides, impinging on the environment, poverty, food security and human health.

A recent study by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) says that zoonotic diseases (those transmitted to people from animals) that have recently emerged from animals make up to one-quarter of the infectious disease burden in low-income countries. Animal diseases that threaten people’s health directly include food-borne illnesses such as diarrhoea. . . .

‘“A consensus is growing that a disconnection between agriculture, health and nutrition is at least partly responsible for the disease burden associated with food and farming,” ILRI Director General Dr Jimmy Smith said, at a media briefing last week. Smith said that unlike poor countries where human diseases that spread from animals are largely neglected, rich countries are investing heavily in global surveillance and risk reduction activities.

The problem is that many countries lack the veterinary staff, surveillance and other tools required to control diseases that come with this expansion,” he said. . . .

‘ILRI Director General Dr Jimmy Smith argues that the challenges related to livestock keeping are steadily becoming a matter of concern in urban areas.

‘He says that while urban livestock keeping improves food security, nutrition and health from livestock products, there are also risks since unsanitary conditions and weak infrastructure mean that livestock can be a source of pollution and disease.

‘ILRI experts feel that Africa suffers from the burden of neglected zoonoses, which the developed world is no longer paying much attention to. . . .

For the first time we are in a position to track an epidemic in real time, across risk surfaces to follow, and perhaps even anticipate its progress. We intend to intensify efforts towards tracking disease pathogens as they move among farms, processors and markets in place such as Nairobi,” says Smith.’

Read the whole article by Bernard Muthaka in the Standard Newspaper: Experts says keeping of livestock could lead to spread of diseases, 5 May 2013.

One thought on “As livestock farming intensifies in poor countries, so can livestock–and livestock-to-human–diseases

  1. Just a note that University of Wisconsin defines a zoonotic disease as “ZOONOTIC DISEASES are diseases caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between (or are shared by) animals and humans.”
    For example; People can transmit Tuberculosis to animals as well as animals giving it to people.

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