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Curbing the menace of zoonotic diseases

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By Mercy Kelani

These diseases in humans cause illnesses, disabilities or deaths.

Majority of Nigerians are oblivious of the fact that some of the recent outbreaks of diseases in the country are caused by exploitation of the ecosphere due to industrial revolution, digitalisation and globalisation agenda on animal and plants kingdoms. Zoonotic diseases are responsible for a huge percentage of the outbreaks of diseases in the country. According to experts, 60 percent of existing human infectious diseases are passed from animals. These diseases in humans cause illnesses, disabilities or deaths, with some occurring as yearly epidemics over the last 50 years.

During the commemoration of World Zoonoses Day on July 6, which Nigeria joined in, the World Health Organization (WHO) asserted that zoonoses has a massive portion of new and previously existing diseases in humans, with more than 200 known types. These diseases are usually caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses or unconventional agents and humans can be infected through contaminated food and water, direct contact, or exposure to the environment. Celebration of the international day encourages individuals around the world to implement preventive measures against these diseases.

Experts affirmed that sub-Saharan African countries are at high risk.

According to WHO, about 1 billion reports of illness and millions of deaths happen yearly, across the globe, from zoonotic diseases. There are three types of zoonotic diseases — endemic, epidemic, and emerging and re-emerging zoonoses. Examples of the latter are yellow fever, the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), West Nile virus, SARS, and others. Africa has various wildlife and aquatic creatures and forests, and resultantly attracts pandemics linked to animals. Experts affirmed that sub-Saharan African countries are at a very high risk.

Outbreaks of these diseases are worsened in Nigeria and other countries affected by political instability, corruption, lack of basic needs of life, conflicts, bad governance, and poor health systems. In Nigeria, over 130 million citizens are suffering from destitution and abject poverty. A massive percentage of the nation’s population are without access to nutritious food, sanitary practices, potable water, and adequate housing. Resultantly, the Human Development Index (HDI) and life expectancy profile of the country are extremely poor, even though it possesses huge natural and human wealth.

“Endangered Species Conservation and Protection Bill” to be revisited.

World Organisation for Animal Health calls for massive health monitoring systems to aid effective surveillance and prevention of zoonotic pathogens. Through creation of awareness, promotion of prevention, and investment in research, communities across the world cab collaborate to reduce the effect of these infectious diseases in the health of humans and animals. As a result, the need to revisit the “Endangered Species Conservation and Protection Bill” has been renewed by experts and non-governmental organisations in the health and environment fields of Nigeria.

Dr. Mark Ofua, veterinarian and Nigerian spokesperson for Wild Africa Fund, stated that Nigeria, recognised as a hotspot for trafficking of illegitimate wildlife, should not be responsible for the next pandemic. Therefore, there is a need to put an end to illegal bushmeat trade, and curb the spread of zoonoses to protect the environment. A health advocate in Lagos State, Professor Akin Abayomi, said that destruction of ecosystems, creation of pathogenicity for humans to invade the space of animals to fall trees and have contact with wildlife are the consequences of lack of awareness.

It is necessary to dissuade urban consumers from illegal bushmeat.

In his statement, co-founder and CEO of Wild Africa Fund, Peter Knights, said that to stop the spread of infectious diseases, it is a necessary to dissuade urban consumers from illegal bushmeat through enforcement of laws, education, and preservation of the remains of wildlife habitat. Also, there must be development of alternative sources of protein and income for hunters of bushmeat. Additionally, the “Endangered Species Conservation and Protection Bill” suggested higher penalties to express the seriousness of the crimes and how they affect endangered species.

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