Animal diseases pose big challenge to human health: WHO Chief

Beijing: Animal diseases emerging at an alarming pace are posing a big challenge to human health, the chief of the UN health body warned on Thursday.

More than 30 new diseases emerged to cause diseases in humans in the last three decades, and more than 70 per cent of them came from the animal sector, Margaret Chan, Director- General of the WHO, said in Hong Kong.

When animal diseases infect the human species to cause diseases in people, it is crucial to ensure the ability for the health sector and the agriculture sector to work well together, making sure the interface is well handled, she said.

"SARS virus came from animals, and bird flu came from poultry. It is important to look at the environment, the culture practice, and the human-animal interface, and make sure the ecosystem balance is properly managed," China`s state -run Xinhua news agency quoted her as saying.

Chan also said changes like unprecedented population density, the industrialisation of food production, people living almost nose to nose with domestic animals, the eating of bush meat, and the phenomenal increases in international travel, are very difficult trends to reverse.

She said there will definitely be more new diseases capable of causing outbreaks in humans, but not all new diseases will be devastating.

"The WHO and her partners are watching closely, and will very quickly deploy strong global capacity to respond."

Chan was appointed Director-General of the WHO in 2006, and was re-appointed for a second term until 2017.


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