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The Threat of Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases to Wildlife

(from National Geographic) In this 6th interview with renowned wildlife biologist Dr. Michael Hutchins, we discuss the challenges facing vanishing species and other threatened free-ranging and captive populations of wildlife due to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

Jordan: Zoonoses and anthroponoses may be confusing terms to some of our readers. Can you define these terms and any others that may help us better understand infectious disease dynamics? What constitutes an Emerging Infectious Disease and who studies these disease agents?

Michael: Before responding to your questions, first let me say that I am not a wildlife veterinarian, epidemiologist or medical doctor, so my knowledge of these issues comes from many years of interacting with experts in these fields. Simply put zoonoses are diseases that can pass from animals to humans. Some examples include rabies, Murine typhus fever, hookworm and Ebola. I’m not surprised about the confusion over various terms. I’ve seen two definitions of anthroponoses: (1) diseases that pass only between humans and (2) diseases that can pass from humans to animals. An example of the former would be the common cold; examples of that latter would be measles and tuberculosis. An emerging infectious disease (EID) is generally defined as a disease that has recently appeared in a population or that has been known for some time but is rapidly increasing in incidence or geographic range. Some examples include the, Ebola virus, Monkey Pox, SARS, HIV/AIDS, bird flu (H5N1) and Lyme disease.

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