Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Animals and Diseases

I am sure you remember the days when people walked around with masks on and we laughed at the paranoid Singaporeans. Don't laugh. The SARS threat is not over yet. Recently some new cases have turned up. The authorities in Guangzhou have received orders to cull about 10,000 of the civet cats which are suspected as source of SARS. This disease caused a downturn of the Asian economies from which we have not fully recovered.
In the north, there have been some reports of the Chicken flu. This is caused by a rare and deadly influenza virus, previously found only in birds and poultry. The first case of Chicken flu was reported on the 11th of May 1997 when a three year old boy in Hong Kong began suffering from severe respiratory distress and later died of complications. More cases turned up later in late november that year.
We also cannot forget the outbreak of the Nipah virus in Malaysia. The first human cases of disease attributed to Nipah virus occurred in late September 1998 in the northern city of Ipoh. The cases were first attributed to the Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus but was later found to be a previously unknown virus of the family Paramyxoviridae which was first called Hendra-like virus. Direct contact with Pigs are the apparent source of infection for humans.
Quite recently there was news about an outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or the "mad cow disease" in the US which traced its origin to Canada. This was first discovered in England and millions of cows were slaughtered. Many scientists believe that Mad cow disease originated when British cattle were fed animal-based feed that included the remains of sheep who had been sick with scrapie, a disease similar to BSE. BSE can be passed along to humans who eat infected beef through a mutated protein known as a prion. It is not known how many people are infected with the human version of mad cow disease, the new-varient Creutzfeld Jakob Disease (vCJD), because of its lengthy incubation period.
And of course we can't forget the most deadly disease which has no cure- AIDS. It is still widely believed that the HIV came into the humans from one or more non-human primate species- monkeys and chimpanzees when they were hunted as food.
The the process by which certain disease causing viruses and other germs pass from animals to humans is known as zoonosis. Once an animal disease has infected people, it may then be passed from human to human. The Ebola virus is another deadly example.
Link: Non-vegetarian diet
One possible solution: Lets all become vegetarians

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