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Risks from Microbes on the Rise: Reasons Why and Ways To Prevent Future Epidemics

Jennifer Fisher Wilson
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Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest: None disclosed.

Ann Intern Med. 2004;140(6):497-500. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-140-6-200403160-00040
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Although scientists have long known that animals could transmit infections to humans, they are increasingly concerned about animal-borne diseases. All of the recent high-profile infectious diseases in humans have been acquired from animals: mice carrying hantavirus, cows with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), chickens with avian influenza, birds and mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus, civet cats infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)–associated coronavirus. Raised awareness of these animal-to-human diseases transmitted, called zoonotic diseases, has helped contain their spread, but factors such as changes in land use and global travel mean that these infections are an increasing threat to humans worldwide. “You're definitely going to see infections spreading more quickly across the globe. SARS is a vivid example of that,” said James M. Hughes, MD, an Assistant Surgeon General and director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) National Center for Infectious Diseases.

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