Zoonotic diseases and human health: The human influenza example

Barry D. Schoub
Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research | Vol 79, No 2 | a489 | DOI: | © 2012 Barry D. Schoub | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 June 2012 | Published: 20 June 2012

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Barry D. Schoub, National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Sandringham, South Africa

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Over the past few decades a large number of new and emerging infectious diseases have been recognised in humans, partly because of improved diagnostic technologies and increased awareness and also, partly because of dynamic ecological changes between human hosts and their exposure to animals and the environment (Coker et al. 2011). Some 177 new pathogenic organisms have been recognised to be ‘emerging’, that is, have newly arisen or been newly introduced into human populations; almost three quarters of these, 130 (73%), have come from zoonotic origins (Cascio et al. 2011; Cutler, Fooks & Van Der Poel 2010; Taylor, Latham & Woolhouse 2001; Woolhouse & Gowtage-Sequeria 2005). One of the most prevalent and important human infectious disease is influenza, a disease responsible globally for a quarter million deaths annually. In the USA alone the toll from influenza is estimated at 36 000 deaths and 226 000 hospitalisations, and it ranks as the most important cause of vaccine preventable mortality in that country (CDC 2010). The epidemiological behaviour of human influenza clearly defines it as an emerging infectious disease and the recent understanding of its zoonotic origins has contributed much to the understanding of its behaviour in humans (Fauci 2006).


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