A Major Threat to Global Health

Ecological and epidemiological understanding of zoonotic diseases will lead to better health systems
A Major Threat to Global Health

World is presently facedwith great challenge. From 10 Downing Street to the Canadian Parliament, thisvirus has affected all. Scientists had warned governments in the past about theemergence of these diseases, nevertheless, world powers didn't take itseriously. Though various aspects of COVID-19 are still a mystery and some aspectsare being researched into, it is important to highlight some of the majorecological understanding of New Emerging Diseases. Ecological andepidemiological understanding of zoonotic diseases will entail more effort forthe early management of these diseases and will lead to better health systemsacross the globe.

The emergence of novelCOVD-19 in China was initially seen as seasonal epidemics and didn't ring alarmbells across the globe for its severity. Recent surge in emerging infectiousdiseases (EIDs) have brought new challenge for both developed as well asdeveloping countries. According to the review authored by Howard and Flecher(2012) published in Nature Microbiology, world is facing a new emerging virusesoccurring approximately after one year originating from animal hosts.  Although the WHO have been quick to respondto the possible consequences of these emerging diseases, nevertheless, there isfear among researchers that there is possibility that many emerging infectionshave made inroads in wild population about whom we are unaware. The main reasonfor the least concern for the emerging diseases in the wild is due to humancentric health approach by majority of global health organizations. Such anapproach has further escalated the global health crisis whereby authorities areshowing interest in wiping out infecting agents causing human disease withoutcaring about the disease in wild population. Some of these less known diseasesin wild animals transmit into human population and become great healthchallenge. Therefore, it is important to understand the epidemiology of eachand every emerging disease in wild animal population in order to know theirability of transmission into human hosts. However, lack of research funding isthe main issue which hinders such activities at global level.

There are various factorswhich are responsible for these diseases. According to the article published inPLOS One pathogen (2013), the main factors that underlie emergence of newpathogens are the Microbial Agents, the Human Host and the HumanEnvironment.  However, the global warmingand climate change is a major trigger for the onset of many emerging andreemerging diseases. The global warming is believed to shift diseases towardspole direction and that may pave the way for the spread of dangerous infectingagents which were otherwise impossible in past. Basically, increasedtemperature favours the progression of many new pathogens and also helps themto enter the suitable vector for easy access to the final host. Nevertheless,early research about COVID-19 shows that this virus favours cold and dryenvironmental conditions (MIT research report). The proper mechanism withregard to events that lead to the emergence of new disease is still unknown.

Rich biodiversity isalways beneficial as far as health of ecosystem is concerned as it shieldspopulation being infected with new emerging diseases. In past two decades,epidemiologists and ecologists have been relating occurrence of diseases withbiodiversity. For example, Khalil and his co-workers (2016, Nature Researchreports) tried to explain the relationship between ecosystem health and thedilution effect. Ecologists further say that balance in nature is maintained inhost-parasite interaction. All the parasites have their specific hosts and whenthere is loss of potential hosts of specific parasites in nature due toanthropogenic factors, parasites might switch to unusual hosts like humanswhere they can cause huge damage. Though it is early to say whether same isresponsible for the outbreak of COVID19, we have to focus on more ecologicaland epidemiology aspects of this virus.

There is anotherimportant factor that helps quick transmission of New Emerging Infectionsacross the boundaries. For example, modern globalization with quick transportsystem (air travel) acted as a medium for the transmission of corona virus in aspan of two months. Most of the positive cases reported across the globe weredue to travel history of patients who travelled from the affected areas.Imagine if same disease had emerged 40 years back; it would have eitherremained localized or taken some time to become global pandemic. So, COVID-19can be considered as product of globalized world that rattled whole capitalisteconomic system.

Eradication of emergingdiseases is a daunting challenge for health authorities due to multiple  factors. Eradication programmes for newemerging diseases like Corona is difficult because of lack of knowledge about thedisease pattern. The researchers are of the opinion that shifting pattern ofdiseases across latitudinal gradient may hamper eradication campaign. Forexample, launching eradicating drive against new disease without knowing thatit has already entered new geographical locations will fetch no results. So, itis essential for public health authorities to seek services fromepidemiologists and ecologists before embarking eradicating programmes againstemerging diseases.

There is need ofbrainstorming sessions across board for the generation of public awareness withregard to emerging diseases. A global meet designated solely for addressingemerging diseases, where participants from different countries can debatedisease eradication and formulate an agenda for future action, would also beuseful.

But first, we needinnovative research and systematic monitoring programmes to obtain first-handinformation about patterns of these diseases. For that, governments need toinvest more on research and make special provisions for the establishment of'Research Cell' for the management of emerging diseases. Let us hope for thebest as 'hope is beacon that leads to prosperity'.

Dr. Ummer Rashid Zargar is Assistant Professor (Zoology), Government Degree College Boys, Anantnag

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