A4NH / Africa / Agri-Health / Disease Control / East Africa / Emerging Diseases / ILRI / Kenya / LiveGene / People / Project / Research / Zoonotic Diseases

The (neglected) ties binding human and animal health

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) visit to project sites, June 2011

ILRI animal health staff, carry out famacha on a study cow of the People, Animals and their Zoonoses (PAZ) project (photo credit: BMGF/Lee Klejtnot).

“Animal diseases make up 60 per cent of all human pathogens and have a significant impact on poverty. Yet for many years, the worst diseases were sorely neglected by the international community. Eric Fevre describes how this turned around, and what researchers are now doing to tackle it.

‘In the far west of rural Kenya, close to the border with Uganda, livestock keepers struggle with poverty, food security, and a considerable burden of both animal and human disease. Ninety-five percent of the population of this region, sandwiched between Lake Victoria and Mt Elgon, are smallholders – growers of crops and keepers and small herds of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens. The animals people keep are the backbone of their domestic stability – providing essential food and nutrition, but also serve as an investment, cashed in when the need for funds arises, which is often to pay for heathcare or school fees. And it is for these reasons that diseases linked to animals are devastating for such communities.

The ‘Neglected Zoonotic Diseases’ (NZDs) include rabies, zoonotic Human African Trypanosomiasis, brucellosis, anthrax, q-fever, Rift Valley Fever, cysticercosis, leptospirosis, bovine tuberculosis, leishmaniasis and several others. They are defined as a group of endemic, lingering diseases, originating from an animal source, mostly affecting poor communities in slums and remote rural areas of the developing world.

NZDs are grossly under-reported so their impact is almost invisible in national statistics. As they have little effect on trade or international travel they are paid very limited attention by national governments or the international community, despite the profound effect on those living in endemic areas.

Zoonoses constitute approximately 60 per cent of all human pathogens, and some – such as avian influenza – receive tremendous amounts of international attention and funding. Others tend to cause chronic pathologies or long-lasting outbreaks, in areas such as Western Kenya, where the levels of poverty and the lack of political voice by those affected means that they do not get the attention that they probably deserve….’

Read the whole article in the wellcome trust blog, 21 Feb 2012: The (neglected) ties binding human and animal health

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