Zoonotic Diseases Are Becoming More Dangerous. SGU Has the Solution.

By Calum Macpherson, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Director of Research at St. George's University
May 10, 2018

The World Health Organization just identified a mysterious new disease that could emerge over the next year — and pose a huge threat to human health. Referred to as ‘Disease X’, the pathogen will likely be transmitted from animals.[1]

That’s not surprising. Many of the world’s most dangerous diseases come from animals. Successfully defeating such epidemics demands a “One Health” approach.

Three-quarters of emerging diseases are zoonotic — that is, they spread between animals and people.[2] Common zoonotic diseases already ravaging the planet include rabies, salmonella, avian flu, and yellow and dengue fevers.[3],[4]

These diseases are incredibly dangerous. Globally, the top 13 zoonotic diseases infect 2.4 billion every year — and kill 2.2 million.[5]

Consider the current situation in Brazil. The country is experiencing its worst outbreak of yellow fever in decades. The infection — which is transferred from monkeys to humans through mosquitoes — has killed 300 people this year. The government is now scrambling to vaccinate millions of citizens.[6]

Here at St. George’s, we know that combatting zoonotic diseases requires a One Health philosophy. One Health is the philosophy that human, animal, plant and environmental health are all interconnected, so health professionals from different fields must work together to identify threats and effectively tackle diseases.[7]

For example, veterinarians are well-positioned to identify emerging zoonotic diseases in animals and relay the threat to physicians and public health workers. Then, they can work together to minimize the disease’s impact on humans.[8]

At SGU, students across all four schools are given the opportunity to learn about One Health connections. We encourage cross-discipline collaboration between our future doctors, veterinarians, public health and environmental health professionals.

The most dangerous diseases of the future will most likely come from animals. It’s critical to deploy a One Health approach to prevent them.


[1] https://www.worldhealth.net/news/disease-x-warnings-who/

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/basics/zoonotic-diseases.html

[3] http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/dtopics/zoo/


[5] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-disease-animal-human/diseases-from-animals-hit-over-two-billion-people-a-year-idUSBRE8640D820120705?feedType=RSS&feedName=healthNews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reuters%2FhealthNews+%28Reuters+Health+News%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/20/world/americas/yellow-fever-brazil-vaccinate.html; https://www.usnews.com/news/news/articles/2018-04-13/brazil-yellow-fever-vaccination-campaign-far-short-of-goal

[7] http://www.sgu.edu/ohom/

[8] https://www.healio.com/infectious-disease/zoonotic-infections/news/print/infectious-disease-news/%7Bcd075ce1-0c6a-4f50-b7b8-f547e00a963b%7D/one-health-approach-essential-to-controlling-public-health-threats

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