New Delhi: Zoonotic diseases, or diseases that
transmit from animals to humans, like rabies, chikunguniya and
Japanese Encephalitis, comprise a majority of the diseases
afflicting humans today around the world, especially in South
Asia, and a concerted strategy is needed to tackle such
infections, experts said here Tuesday.
At the fourth 'South Asia Regional Alliance to Fight Zoonoses: The
Road Ahead', experts said "over half of all known human pathogens
originating in animals, and nearly 75 percent of emerging
infectious diseases are zoonotic".
The two-day seminar, which began Tuesday, has been organized by
Public Health Foundation of India and One Health Alliance of South
Asia (OHASA), an advisory network of scientists and policy-makers
from South Asia focused on the control and prevention of
trans-boundary zoonotic diseases. OHASA was formed in 2009 by
Manish Kakkar, a senior public health specialist at Public Health
Foundation of India, said the "veterinary sector, human sector and
wildlife sector need to be on board" to effectively tackle the
spread of zoonotic diseases.
"Zoonotic diseases have no international boundaries, and do not
carry a passport, said Jonathan H. Epstein, EcoHealth Alliance's
Asia director. The Nipah virus is transmitted from bats to pigs
and then to humans. The outbreaks of the virus have occurred in
Malaysia, India and Bangladesh," said Epstein.
"Since humans do not exist in isolation, but are part of a larger
whole, the high-risk interfaces between humans and animals need to
identified, as well as behaviour that increases contact with
wildlife needs to be altered to be able to tackle zoonotic disease
outbreaks," he added.
In India, there is very little awareness about zoonoses, even
among health professionals, which prevents prompt identification
of the disease, said Kakkar.
In the aftermath of the H5N1 and SARS outbreaks of 2008, a need
was felt to promote dialogue between humans, veterinary and
wildlife health sectors. The Roadmap to Combat Zoonoses Initiative
(RCZI) was launched in March 2009 and modelled itself around the
One World One Health concept. The RCZI was set up under the PHFI.