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Training Manual on Wildlife Diseases and Surveillance
IV. Emerging diseases and wildlife
1. Emerging diseases
A major concern to human societies around the world is the recent increase in the
number of important human and animal diseases, particularly infectious diseases. Previously
unknown pathogens have caused previously un-recognised diseases, and the harm caused by
some well-known pathogens has increased as well. These new or newly-important diseases have
come to be called ‘emerging diseases’ or ‘emerging and re-emerging diseases.’
An ‘emerging disease’ generally is defined as a disease due to:
1) a new pathogen resulting from the evolution or change of an existing pathogenic
agent, or
2) a known pathogen spreading to a new geographic area or population, or increasing in
prevalence, or
3) a previously unrecognised pathogen or disease diagnosed for the first time and which
has a significant impact on animal or human health.
The term ‘emerging disease’ can be applied to diseases that affect people or to diseases
that affect animals, and also plants. Many important emerging diseases are associated with
pathogens which can infect many different host species and cause disease in wild animals,
domestic animals and people.
(From: M.E.J. Woolhouse and S. Gowtage-Sequeria. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 11 (12), 1842-1847)
A recent study of human infectious diseases determined that there are approximately
1,407 human infectious pathogens world-wide. Of these, 800, or 58%, are zoonotic pathogens
transmitted to people from animals. Another recent study identified 335 human infectious
diseases that emerged in just the past six decades. This represents 25% of all known human
infectious diseases. Of these 355 recently emerged human diseases, 202 (60%) are caused by
zoonotic pathogens and 144 (43%) are caused by pathogens for which the main source is wild
animals. The rate of disease emergence has increased during the previous six decades.