Thursday, August 11th, 2022 01:23:57

Zoonotic Diseases On The Rise, Humans Threatened

By Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao
Updated: July 16, 2020 1:32 pm

Zoonosis day is observed every year on July 6th   world over till recently as a  formality without paying much attention to the originally conceived intent of spreading  awareness on the possible diseases transmission from the animals to the humans and need to prevent the spread of such unknown diseases as medial science is not ready to tackle them and human health is likely to be a casualty. Thanks to Covid19, starting from 2020 all the nations can’t but take zoonosis day seriously as humans who till recently thought that they are the masters of their own fate are taught the lesson of the fragility of their life, once the nature strikes back with all its might through an unseen ‘bio weapons’ called viruses, bacteria, parasites, collectively called  pathogens.

World Health Organization (WHO) in 1959 defined the disease transmitted from the vertebrate animals to humans as zoonotic disease and warned the likely effect of zoonotic diseases which may range from mild to severe, while in extreme cases it can even be fatal. During the last two decades humans are fortunate that despite not having a confirmed vaccine or cure, the viruses causing Swine flu, Zika, Nipah, SAARS etc. outbreaks have not assumed pandemic proportion. As the law of averages caught up and luck ran out for humans, the Corona virus, a confirmed zoonotic, is out infesting nearly one crore across the globe and killing over 5 lakh people. This zoonotic disease-causing virus has surpassed all established records by surviving extreme cold of Swiss Alps and the very high temperatures of Arabian desert areas. Thus, the humans are forced now to look at the zoonotic diseases and the causes for it differently if they wish to recover from the health worries and also economic abyss the world has reached.

It is confirmed that Corona virus has its genesis in China and Covid19 is a pandemic, though doubts remain on the spread of it from Wuhan wet market. There are others who believe that it is a mand made virus accidentally came out of Virology laboratory located in Wuhan. Arguments will continue on China and Corona for a long time to come. However, as of now, one must believe the Chinese version as that was supported by WHO. As per the Chinese the corona virus originated from the bat sold in the wet market. It is a known fact that Chinese consume any living and moving animal, cooked or raw, as food.

Wild animals including bats harbor many kinds of viruses. But they live in a different ecosystem outside the human contact. If humans respected the nature and confined to their own ecosystem the pathogens would remain in their natural hosts, the wild animals. This confinement of the pathogens to the forests where different kinds of vertebrate hosts are available, the viruses get circulated there and that transmission was slow and got diluted, losing their virulent character. As humans crossed that ‘natural boundary’ and transgressed into the wild with his lust for more coupled with unbridled overconfidence over his intellectual capacity to counter the unknown wild the pathogens spilled from wild animals to humans thus increasing the zoonotic diseases. The viruses which were dormant in the intermediate hosts like bats started genetic variations enabling them to infest humans. This transmission of viruses from the wild to humans was earlier at a low scale and is confined to local area.

The examples being the reports often we read in the media regarding the ‘mysterious’ fevers in the agency areas of the country including Visakhapatnam, East Godavari, Khammam and Adilabad districts stretching across Andhra and Telangana states. Thankfully those mysterious agency area fevers were restricted to a limited area and also to a specific season, effecting not so vocal communities the governments have not commissioned any scientific study on the possible pathogen host interphase.

Reportedly over the last 100 years there is an alarming increase in the number and frequency of new zoonotic diseases with a confirmed 6 out of ten diseases effecting the humans during the last three decades being zoonotic. Despite such serious nature of the zoonotic issue the governments across the globe failed to rectify their policies or stopped from meddling with the nature.

The latest report of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has summarized the current situation. “Increase in zoonotic diseases” as the report said “are driven by more frequent contacts between humans and dangerous animal pathogens as well as by contact with wide variety of species resulting in the emergence of new forms of diseases in humans. These new zoonotic diseases have posed a greater threat to human health around the world.”

This man animal interaction sometimes resulting in conflict are hitting both the animals and humans. As the forest cover is dwindling because of the alleged developmental activity and exploitation of forest resources animals are deprived of their habitat and reduced in diversity. More and more people are going into forests for pleasure, trekking, adventure and exploitation of resources. The petting of wild animals by overenthusiastic zoo visitors and the way pets are treated in the homes are also issues of concern as far as Zoonotic diseases are concerned.

If humans are to survive, nature must be sustained. Man has meddled too much for too long provoking the nature to hit back in its own way. Mahatma Gandhi in the early 20th century foresaw what man and science can do the mother nature and cautioned that “Nature can’t meet the greed of man but only needs of man”.

Those in authority and also the  individuals and organizations interested in nature and working in the field of  ecology and environment come together to protect the ecosystems to recover and reach its original glory where each organism is respected for its role in nature and stop seeing forests, rivers etc.,  from the sole economic angle.  The lockdown period has already shown how nature can recover in the absence of man’s madness. The purity of Ganges at Varanasi, the clear air of Delhi, the noise free Mumbai roads are all there to see reminding us how man should now change for not only protecting nature but also protect himself from lurking zoonotic diseases.


By Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao

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