WHO to host forum on animal diseases that spread to humans
The World Health Organization announced today it will host a three-day meeting beginning Monday to discuss how diseases such as bird flu, mad cow disease and SARS jump from animals to humans, and look at ways to monitor and control such illnesses.
Numerous factors, including changes in the environment and physical contact between animals and humans, lead to the sharing of these diseases, WHO said.
The Geneva-based organization will hold the meeting jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Dutch Health Council and the World Organization for Animal Health (Agence France-Presse, April 30).
"Because zoonoses are diseases that affect animals and have the potential to infect humans, many of the measures essential to reducing the risk to human health must be taken by sectors beyond public health, such as agricultural or environmental authorities," WHO said in a statement.
The organization and its partners are aiming to help guide nations in strengthening their capacity to gather and share information on zoonoses across many sectors (WHO release, April 30).
SARS killed nearly 800 people and infected more than 8,000 last year, mostly in Asia, while 23 died in Thailand and Vietnam from bird flu (U.N. Wire, April 22).
A new outbreak of SARS in China this month has killed one person and infected others. The Chinese Health Ministry confirmed today that a death it suspected was caused by SARS was indeed caused by the disease (AFP).