New diseases in livestock, native wildlife and humans14/01/2012 18:22:11 Pilot study establishes the importance of tracking diseases associated with illegal wildlife trade at U.S. ports
January 2012. The preliminary results of the program clearly demonstrate the potential human health risk from the illegal wildlife trade at major international travel hubs as a pathway to disease emergence in animals and humans. The pilot program was initiated to establish surveillance and testing methods to uncover the potential public health risks from illegally imported wildlife products coming into the United States.
Lead author and Associate Director for Health and Policy at EcoHealth Alliance, Dr. Kristine Smith, stated "although the findings to date are from a small pilot study, they remind us of the potential public health risk posed by illegal importation of wildlife products - a risk we hope to better characterize through expanded surveillance at ports of entry around the country."
New diseases in livestock, native wildlife and humans
Alliance'sPetWatch encourage responsible exotic pet choices and ownership. U.S. Fish and Wildlife records show that more than 55 million pounds of wildlife products enter the country each year, with New York City the most common port of entry followed by Miami, and Los Angeles.
Beyond the public health risks of the live and non-live wildlife trade are risk of disease introduction to native wildlife and agricultural species, proliferation of non-native wildlife causing damage to U.S. ecosystems, as well as the protection of threatened and endangered species identified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. "These important research results highlight the value of using new DNA barcoding identification technologies to accurately monitor the wildlife trade, important for both disease surveillance and the conservation of endangered species," stated Dr. George Amato from the Sackler Institute of Comparative Genomics at American Museum of Natural History.
The pilot study is the first to establish port surveillance methodology to test for diseases associated with wildlife products. Through better surveillance of illegal wildlife product shipments entering ports around the country, authorities will have a better chance at preventing new disease emergence before it occurs. The pilot project involved a collaboration of scientists from the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia University, EcoHealth Alliance, the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The article was published in PLoS ONE entitled, Zoonotic Viruses Associated with Illegally Imported Wildlife Products, from a collaborative study led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), identified evidence of retroviruses and herpesviruses in illegally imported wildlife products confiscated at several U.S. international airports, including John F. Kennedy International Airport, George Bush Intercontinental-Houston and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International.