A look at agencies responsible for suppressing a real world ‘contagion’

Recent blockbuster films, including “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Contagion” have featured zoonotic diseases that spread into (spoiler alert) deadly pandemics.

If the respective films didn’t give you a case of hypochondria, statistics collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will: Approximately 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting humans are diseases of animal origin and approximately 60 percent of all human pathogens are zoonotic, communicable from animals to people. But what current procedures are in place to prevent fiction from becoming fact? A recent article from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) details the work being done to monitor wildlife in efforts contain outbreaks and prevent spread to humans.

Established in 1975 and headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) collaborates with wildlife biologists from the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as state partners to provide immediate technical assistance to field personnel who find sick and dead wildlife. NWHC personnel provide instructions on collection, preservation, and shipment of specimens for laboratory examination and travel to problem areas to conduct field investigations and assist local personnel with disease control operations.

While the NWHC is on the front lines in monitoring wildlife, the CDC’s  National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases focuses specifically on human impacts, with a complex network across six divisions to detect, prevent, and control infectious diseases from spreading in the United States and around the world, including the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, the Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, the Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections, the Division of Scientific Resources and Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. Established in early 2010, the center consists of a diverse workforce of “microbiologists, epidemiologists, educators, chemists, ecologists, demographers, statisticians, health economists, veterinarians, health communicators and information technology experts.”

Read more at Preventing Pandemic: the Wildlife Forensics of New and Emerging Diseases and learn more about the CDC National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases here.

Photo Credit: Rich Magahiz


Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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