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Monday, 20 July 2020

How do Zoonotic Diseases spread ?

A Closer look at the spread of Zoonotic disease and what can be done to minimize their risk.
 

WHAT ARE ZOONOTIC DISEASES? 

• Zoonoses is the transmission of diseases from animals to humans or vice versa. 

• They are caused by harmful organisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites. 

• Zoonotic diseases that are harmless to animals can cause serious illnesses when 'spilled' onto humans. 

• According to the WHO, there are over 200 zoonotic diseases; bubonic plague, Spanish influenza, HIV/AIDS and now COVID-19, with over 1 mn cases in India alone, are some examples of zoonoses.

TRANSMISSION ROUTES 


How zoonotic disease are transmitted


Direct contact with blood, saliva, urine or faeces of an infected animal; this can occur by petting animals or through bites and scratches. 

• Indirect Contact: Touching contaminated surfaces such as soil, plants, aquarium water, etc. 

• Vectors: Spread by tick, mosquito and flea bites. 

• Food-borne: Eating infected food such as raw/ undercooked meat, unpasteurised milk, and fruits or vegetables that have been contaminated. 

• Water-borne: Drinking contaminated water.

ZOONOSES CAN BE COMPLEX CASE STUDY: SPANISH FLU (H1N1) 




• Scientists think that the 1918 H1N1 flu originated pigs - when a human flu-causing virus infected a pig and a bird flu virus also infected the same pig. 

• The genetic information of the two viruses mixed inside the pig which gave birth to a new virus, H1N1. 

• The Spanish flu lasted for two years; it infected more than 500 million people and killed 50 million.

A GROWING PROBLEM 


• The increase in frequency of zoonotic diseases is a major global health concern; scientists cannot predict when the next zoonoses will occur. 

Increase in hunting of animals and deforestation for agriculture and construction has thrown the ecosystem off balance; animals are unable to thrive and chronic stress makes them more vulnerable to diseases, that can in turn spread to humans. 

• Additionally, people are more connected than before - over 4 billion people travelled across the world in 2017. 

Unchecked global trade of exotic animals that carry a plethora of deadly unknown pathogens and can spillover to humans. 

• Moreover, overprescription and overconsumption of drugs has led to antimicrobial resistance, hindering effective treatment of diseases.

AMPLIFICATION OF ZOONOSES BY ANIMALS 


Transmission of pathogens can occur domesticated animals to humans or directly from wild animals; however, an outbreak in domestic animals amplifies the likelihood of transmission of that disease to humans.


INCREASE IN AGRICULTURAL LAND OVER THE YEARS 


• Agricultural land has crossed 4 billion hectares; forest area has been cleared to make more space for farming. 

• The 2015 Ebola outbreak that killed 11,323 people started in a young boy in Guinea; their family lived on forest land that had been cleared decades ago to make space for humans.

OTHER MAJOR Z0ONOTIC DISEASES IN INDIA 


Plague has killed over 12 mn Indians in the past and resurfaces regularly in different parts of the country. 

• More than 1.8 mn people receive the rabies vaccine, yet over 20,000 die of rabies every year. 

Brucellosis, spread through unpasteurised milk and cheese, causes a loss of 24 crores each year. 

Japanese Encephalitis, spread by a virus, causes inflammation of the brain and is accompanied by little or no symptoms; it is in an endemic in parts of Bihar and UP. 

Kala azar, caused by parasites, has a high fatality rate if left untreated; in 2016, India reported 70% of the global kala azar cases.

SOME WAYS TO MINIMISE THE SPILLOVER 


Proper personal hygiene: Frequent hand-washing, avoid eating in animal housing areas, wear protective equipment when handling animals. 

• Animal Housing Areas: Urine and faeces should be cleaned immediately, domestic and wild animals should be stored separately, storage areas should be cleaned frequently. 

Avoid raw, undercooked meat; only drink water that you know is safe. 

• Areas deemed high risk of zoonotic spillage should be inspected frequently. 

• Illegal wildlife trade must be tracked and stopped.

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