The World Health Organization (WHO) is hosting a three-day consultation to identify the factors that allow diseases to jump from animals to humans (zoonoses), as well as to improve surveillance systems for their monitoring and control. The consultation, held jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), in collaboration with the Dutch Health Council, will take place at WHOs Geneva Headquarters, from 3-5 May.
Animal disease researchers are increasingly needed in the fight against emerging infectious diseases. Photo: AP
The transmission of a disease such as SARS or avian influenza from animals to humans depends on numerous factors, including complex interactions between human and animal hosts, the causative microbial agent, and the environment. Ecological changes resulting from human activities represent by far the most important factor in the emergence of any zoonotic disease.
International experts on public health, veterinary science, microbiology, ecology, conservation biology, disease modelling and forecasting will consider what lessons can be learned from the numerous outbreaks of zoonoses including the recent SARS and avian influenza outbreaks. Other illnesses, such as "mad cow" disease, its human form, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and Nipah virus infections, will also be analyzed to determine what measures might prove effective in preventing the emergence of similar diseases in the future.
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