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Zoonosis

A zoonosis (pronounced zoo-oh-NO-sis, plural zoonoses) is any disease found in vertebrate animals that can be naturally transmitted to human beings. In some cases, humans spread a disease to each other after it has been acquired from animals. Diseases spread by insects, such as malaria, are not classified as zoonoses by the World Health Organization (WHO). Most zoonotic diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. (Bacteria are single-celled organisms; viruses are particles of DNA or RNA that enter cells and use the host's cellular apparatus to create new virus particles; parasites are small animals that invade and live within or live on the surface of a host in a quasi-symbiotic relationship that can sometimes result in illness and the death of the host.) A human being may catch a zoonotic disease by eating an animal infected by the disease, by contact with an infected animal, or from another person (the origin of most influenza infections). Over 200 zoonoses are known, including rabies, leptospirosis, tularemia, Q fever, avian and swine flu viruses, trichinosis, variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (the human form of mad cow disease), anthrax, Ebola, brucellosis, and many bacterial foodborne infections. The serious burden of zoonotic disease around the world can be estimated from a few examples. Rabies kills about 55,000 people per year, mostly in Africa and Asia; influenza (flu) viruses cause 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations per year in the United States alone; and the flu pandemic of 1918–1920, which had genes from both swine and avian species, killed between 20 and 40 million people worldwide. Zoonotic diseases are intertwined with human culture because most human contact with animals is culturally determined—which animals we consider edible and how we eat them, which we raise on farms and how we do so, which (if any) we keep as pets, and so on. All human behaviors not controlled by the human body's inherited biology—that is, almost all human behaviors—are cultural in the broadest sense, including dietary preferences, travel, and food production technologies. These and other aspects of culture influence the origin, spread, and control of zoonoses. Zoonoses appear in every population, but which zoonoses are common—and in which groups they are common#x2014;is strongly affected by environment, wealth, and culture. For example, observant Jews and Muslims do not eat pork, observant Hindus do not eat beef, and few Americans eat dog or horse (a product common in supermarkets in Europe). The various zoonoses transmitted by these animal foods are less common in the groups that shun them. Since the development of inexpensive long-haul air travel after World War II, however, tourism and globalization have greatly widened the range of foods and cultural practices to which many people are exposed as well as the speed with which zoonoses can spread. There are also many parts of the world where people lead their daily lives in very close contact with animals, especially pigs and poultry. The cultural factors driving this intimate exposure range from the need to protect precious animal resources that may constitute the bulk of family wealth to the practices of using animals to dispose of organic waste left by humans. Intimate contact with some animals and birds increases the chances of transmission of a zoonotic disease and also increases the risk that new diseases will develop. The genetic material of viruses is particularly prone to mutation that can create new genes, and viruses also swap and reassort genes already present in other viruses. Reassortment occurs in animals that can simultaneously host viruses that usually inhabit other species. Mutation and reassortment can produce dangerous pandemic viruses, like the 1918 flu, because they can alter a virus enough to make it more lethal yet leave it still transmissible between animals and human who have little to no immunity to the novel virus. During an influenza pandemic, for example, humans may not acquire the disease directly from animals at the start of the pandemic. A novel virus (originally transmitted from animals) may have been established in the human population for years awaiting some change that makes it more transmissible between humans. As the recent outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza illustrates, however, humans can acquire some types of subpandemic influenza directly from the animals in which it is circulating. Egypt, a country where poultry is a mainstay of the diet, has become a focal point of the H5N1 avian influenza epidemic mainly because chickens are often kept on rooftops in crowded cities, in close contact with residents in the home, and people are reluctant to report ill or dead poultry for fear of losses suffered if their stocks or their neighbor's stocks are culled. Women and children, usually responsible for tending to the chickens, are bearing the brunt of the H5N1 disease burden. By May 2009, 458 cases of H5N1 influenza were reported in humans, mostly among people in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Egypt, who had direct

however. In early 2009. As opposed to the higher human-to-human transmission rates of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. may act as reservoirs—amplifiers of dangerous influenza viruses because of their large populations of animals living in close contact with each other and in close proximity to humans. The use of factory farms to raise livestock is also a controversial aspect of industrial culture that is often criticized as cruel while defended as efficient. Scientists have proposed that factory farms. and human virus genes. uses.contact with sick or dead poultry. In spite of the fact that there was no evidence that transmission directly from swine sparked the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. and were used by the Zabaleen trash collectors to devour mounds of organic trash. . pigs have moved in an out of households. there was also global concern about a possible pandemic from a novel H1N1 flu virus that was at first termed swine flu but which was soon found to contain a triple reassortment of bird. there are very close genetic relatives of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus routinely found on factory farms in the American Midwest. Egyptian authorities also countered that the close contact between pigs and humans was dangerous and unhealthy and that such action to remedy the situation was long overdue to prevent zoonotic disease transmission. Although as of 13 May 2009 there was no evidence that the novel H1N1 virus was transmitted directly from swine to humans. The order was widely condemned by WHO and other public health officials as unwarranted. pig. Scientists are monitoring for the appearance of clusters of H5N1 cases. many of whom make their living scavenging and disposing of trash from the remainder of the city. and eats swine. Also at issue was whether the order was especially punitive toward the minority Christian population that raises. For example. which could signal a new strain of the virus that allows for easier human-to-human transmission. Surrounded by mounds of trash. very few incidents of swine-to-human transmission have been documented in these previously encountered viruses. also known as confined animal feeding operations. Egyptian authorities countered that their decision to slaughter the pigs was precautionary and that swine would be allowed in special factory farms outside of cites within a few years. the removal of pigs will cause dramatic cultural and economic shifts. Pigs have long been viewed by some Christian groups as valuable pets. played with children on top of trash heaps. genetic analysis shows that H1N1 had to exist in humans at some time. The evidence is also very strong that the types of genetic reassortment associated with the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus have been occurring for decades and are routinely observed in factory farms. especially among the minority Zabaleen Christians in Cairo. Within the minority Christian communities. Egyptian authorities ordered the slaughter of all pigs in the country.