March 22, 2016 – Zoonoses


Anchor lead: Where do new viral infections such as Zika come from? Elizabeth Tracey reports

MERS, Ebola, now Zika.  The list of new viral infections just seems to lengthen.  Mike Klag, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says there are two primary human factors at work in the global spread of emerging infections.

Klag: They’re zoonotic diseases, they’ve been circulating in primates and other species for a long time.  The reason that we see these are twofold: one is increasing interaction between animals and humans, either in China where live animals are sold at market or in the jungle where people are eating bush meat and things like that, and then if there’s enough exposure over time, because of random mutations, it learns how to jump to a new species.  The other factor is travel.  Modern travel means that disease knows no borders.  :28

Klag says that neither factor is likely to be modified much so our best hope is to rely on global cooperation in surveillance, which is improving all the time. Now international cooperation on treatments is also desirable. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.