January 17th, 2021

Leaders should listen to warnings about zoonotic diseases

By Letter to the Editor on May 7, 2020.

It is so unfortunate that even though zoonotic disease specialists raised the red flag on the news of a Chinese doctor warning of his suspicion of a SARS-like pneumonia in his patient, his concern was dismissed and as we now know, he contracted the disease and died.

Health ministers should be cognizant of the fact that zoonotic diseases such as SARS and MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) and Ebola, to name some, relate to human population increases intruding into hitherto animal domains, resulting in adverse intermingling and interchange of microbes. China is such an example where in markets meat from a wide variety of mammals such as bats, cats, civets, to name merely a few, are available. Someone has mentioned a menagerie of species.

Viruses such as corona are widespread in the forgoing as well as indeed in Alberta cattle, causing pneumonia and diarrheic disease; very fortunately these types stay with the livestock. But elsewhere, probably as the result of population density and the need or desire for a wide variety of animal protein, corona and other viruses find the capability to “jump.”

Given the above, political figures should listen to those scientists covering zoonotic diseases and be prepared to have staffing and appropriate paraphernalia on hand for contingencies. Following the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2008, also caused by a coronavirus, it was prophesied that more such maladies would periodically follow. At this time it would appear that South Korea, for one, took heed of the warning.

Norman Harries


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