`Strategy needed to tackle zoonotic diseases`
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 EcoHealth Alliance.
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.
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