Hyderabad: Over the last few years, almost all the major diseases that have threatened to trigger major global health crisis and pandemics — be it Nipah virus, avian influenza, Ebola, swine flu or the recent novel strain of coronavirus in China — have more or less originated from animals.
From animals, thanks to various factors, the virus finds a way to transfer or shift to human beings and this process is often described as zoonosis. Recognising this trend, the World Health Organization (WHO) said ‘emerging zoonotic diseases have potentially serious human health and economic impacts and their current upward trends are likely to continue’.
Public health specialists point out that there are many factors for the emergence of zoonotic diseases, some of them being environmental changes, human and animal demography, habitat destruction, food habits and changing farming practices. Urbanisation and the gradual erosion of natural habitat of animals, which causes friction, also is frequently linked to the rise in zoonosis.
“Over the years, destruction of animal habitat has been a major reason for zoonosis. Forest ecosystems are being replaced by urban settlements, which obviously trigger zoonotic diseases,” says zoologist from OU, Dr Chelmala Srinivasulu.
An authority on Indian bats and their ecosystem, the zoologist pointed out that when animals lose their habitat, they come under immense stress causing a breakdown in their immune systems. “The virus or bacteria that live naturally within the host would multiply for own survival and then look for ways to move out of the host or wild animal, causing transfer of the virus to humans,” explains Dr Srinivasulu.
Coronavirus in China
The WHO and other public health experts suspect that the novel coronavirus (nCoV) strain in China is also of zoonotic origin. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and MERS, which are also coronavirus, are linked to bat species spreading to humans. While initially, the novel coronavirus strain was linked to bats, now more fresh research is pointing towards snakes as a possible animal for the spread of the ailment.
12,828 fliers screened for China virus till Jan 22
New Delhi: A total of 12,828 passengers from 60 flights were screened for novel coronavirus infection till January 22, but no positive case was detected in the country, the Union Health Ministry said on Thursday.
Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan is reviewing the evolving scenario and the preparedness status. She asked States and Union Territories to review hospital preparedness in terms of isolation and ventilator management of critically ill patients, identify gaps and strengthen core capacities in the area of surveillance and laboratory support, an official statement said. Thermal screening is being done at the international airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin.
Indian Embassy sets up hotlines in China
Beijing: As China stepped up measures to control the spread of coronavirus, the Indian Embassy here has set up hotlines for their assistance. Chinese officials promised all assistance, including food supply, to the Indians who stayed put in Hubei province, the embassy said in a press release on Thursday.
“The Embassy of India has been receiving queries from Indians in Hubei province as well as their relatives in India in connection with the evolving situation of coronavirus infection in China,” the release said. The Embassy is in touch with relevant Chinese authorities in Beijing and Wuhan as well as Indians in Hubei Province, especially in Wuhan, it said.