One Health, One World
*Achoo!* We have all been there, sitting on a bus, in a classroom, office, or at the grocery store and someone nearby sneezes or coughs and doesn’t cover their mouth and nose. In the past we might’ve thought “Oh no, gross.” During COVID it’s a much more intense feeling of “I hope I don’t get COVID.” Human diseases like COVID-19 don’t exist in isolation. The health of humans, animals, and the environment are all closely linked. Did you know that more than half of all infections that people can get can be spread between animals and humans?
Humans use animals for food, medicine, clothing, entertainment, and companionship. As human populations grow, we are taking up more space and resources. With this expansion of human populations into land where the main inhabitants were previously wildlife and indigenous people, more people are having contact (and sometimes conflict) with wild animals. Fluffy and Fido in your living room are also included when we talk about animals. A huge number of people have pets in their homes or farm domestic animals for food, and diseases can also be spread between us and them. When you add conditions like climate change and deforestation that affect the health of the environment, it creates even more opportunity for disease transmission. With such an incredibly complex issue, experts in animal, human, and environmental health must work together if they are going to be successful in creating a healthy and safe world.
Here’s an example of how animal, human, and environmental health are connected: Deforestation and mining occurs in gorilla habitats. Roads are built, providing easier access to the gorillas by humans. Humans hunt the gorillas and both consume and sell the meat in urban markets. Other people eat the meat and contract a disease that then spreads amongst human populations. HIV, simian foamy virus, monkeypox virus, Ebola viruses, anthrax, herpesviruses, retroviruses, and paramyxoviruses are some of the diseases that people have contracted from eating bushmeat. “Bushmeat” can refer to different kinds of animals that are hunted, minimally processed or left raw, and consumed, that can potentially lead to spread of disease.
Both illegal trafficking and legal wildlife trade provides an opportunity for diseases to spread from animals to humans. One example is the monkeypox outbreak in 2003 that is believed to have originated in a shipment of animals from West Africa that spread to prairie dogs in the U.S., and then on to humans. The HIV/AIDS pandemic, H1N1 Swine flu, and the West African Ebola epidemic all originated in animals and spread to humans. As animals are traded and cross countries, continents, and oceans to their end destinations, zoonotic diseases can spread on a global level.
A few tips to keep you and others safe and healthy:
1. Wash your hands after being around animals or touching their care supplies, like toys and food and water bowls. Soap and water are most effective!
2. Learn precautions to take while preparing food, and keep pets away from the kitchen or where people eat.
3. Clean up after pets. Scoop cat litter boxes once per day and change the litter out at least once or twice per week.
4. Do not consume bushmeat (It is also illegal to bring into the United States).
5. Keep your distance from wildlife. Do not hand feed or approach wild animals.
In 2022, we will be taking a deeper dive into the idea of One Health. There is so much more to talk about!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Zoonotic Infections
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Wildlife Conservation Society. (n.d.). The 2019 Berlin principles on One health.
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