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The outbreak of COVID-19 has reminded the world that zoonotic diseases are a major threat to human health. Yet, viruses that spread from animals to humans don’t have to occur in wet markets or through illicit wildlife trade, captive animals can also spread them due to the stress and proximity to humans that occur in captivity.
For instance, as Marilyn Kroplick, president of In Defense of Animals, explained in Eco Watch, “Tuberculosis is a deadly, highly infectious disease that has long existed in captive populations of African and Asian elephants in zoos and circuses across the U.S. According to the World Health Organization, TB is one of the top ten causes of death worldwide, killing millions of people each year.”
Any situation where humans are in close contact with animals can lead to human health risks, as is the case for petting zoos. But the reverse can also be true as humans can also spread diseases to animals.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that the state of Florida recently issued a warning that people should be careful working with animals believed to be susceptible to the coronavirus such as possibly cats, bobcats, panthers, ferrets, river otters, dogs, coyotes, foxes, bats, hamsters, mice and rats.
Why This Matters: As Kroplick went on to explain, “in a process called reverse zoonosis, diseases such as influenza A virus, herpes simplex 1, measles and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have been documented as passing from humans to animals.” And in the case of COVID-19, pets and zoo animals can catch the virus from their owners/handlers. While humans have always caught diseases from animals, we have to invest in preventing and tracking emerging zoonotic diseases as human activity is causing these transmissions to increase.
Covid-19 has made abundantly clear that our assault on the world’s biodiversity is also an assault on ourselves. It has proven that we can no longer afford to dismiss the problems scientists and conservationists uncover in faraway places. As forests are destroyed, people and wildlife increasingly come into contact; as the commercial wildlife trade expands, the crossover of diseases from animals to people occurs.
We simply must take better care of the natural world. Healthy ecosystems are some of our best defenses against the challenges climate change is bringing.
Scientists have long known that some reptiles — like lizards and geckos — can regrow their tails. But they recently learned that alligators can do the same, CNN reports. This was a surprise to scientists, who used advanced imaging techniques to discover that juvenile alligators also have the ability to regrow their tails up to […]
by Amy Lupica, ODP Contributing Writer Dozens of animals are using Utah’s largest wildlife overpass sooner than expected, and experts are excited about what this means for the safety of people and local wildlife. The overpass, which was built over Interstate 80 in Utah, is 50 feet wide and 320 feet long and serves as […]
Why This Matters: There are approximately 7 billion birds in North America. Harmful industrial practices in the U.S. kill an estimated 450 million to 1.1 billion birds each year in the U.S., according to estimates by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
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