A new study maps hotspots of human-animal infectious diseases and emerging disease outbreaks. The maps reveal animal-borne disease as a heavy burden for one billion of world’s poor and new evidence on zoonotic emerging disease hotspots in the United States and western Europe.
The new global study mapping human-animal diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and Rift Valley fever finds that an ‘unlucky’ 13 zoonoses are responsible for 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths per year. The vast majority occur in low- and middle-income countries.
The study, which was conducted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Institute of Zoology (UK) and the Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam, maps poverty, livestock-keeping and the diseases humans get from animals, and presents a ‘top 20′ list of geographical hotspots.
According to the study, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Tanzania in Africa, as well as India in Asia, have the highest zoonotic disease burdens, with widespread illness and death. Meanwhile, the northeastern United States, Western Europe (especially the United Kingdom), Brazil and parts of Southeast Asia may be hotspots of ‘emerging zoonoses’—those that are newly infecting humans, are newly virulent, or have newly become drug resistant.Global demand as opportunity
Despite the danger of zoonoses, the growing global demand for meat and milk products is a big opportunity for poor livestock keepers.
Thus, while the developing world’s booming livestock markets represent a pathway out of poverty for many, the presence of zoonotic diseases can perpetuate rather than reduce poverty and hunger in livestock-keeping communities. The study found a 99% correlation between country levels of protein-energy malnutrition and the burden of zoonoses.
Massive underreporting of zoonoses and animal diseases in general in poor countries has been found. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 99.9% of livestock losses do not appear in official disease reports. Surveillance is not fulfilling its purpose.
The main finding of the study is that most of the burden of zoonoses and most of the opportunities for alleviating zoonoses lie in just a few countries, notably Ethiopia, Nigeria, and India. These three countries have the highest number of poor livestock keepers, the highest number of malnourished people, and are in the top five countries for both absolute numbers affected with zoonoses and relative intensity of zoonoses infection.