WCS Examines Bushmeat Health Threat to NYC
NEW YORK (April
14, 2010)—The Wildlife Conservation
Society is working with partners on a study to prevent deadly diseases from
entering New York through the illegal trade of such wildlife as apes, monkeys,
on detecting pathogens in wildlife products entering the New York City
area—will be discussed by Dr. Kristine Smith of the Wildlife Conservation
Society’s Global Health Program at “Wildlife Conservation and Human Health,”
the latest symposium in the WCS Fairfield Osborn Memorial Lecture series on
Wednesday, April 14 at Rockefeller University.
Conservation Society helped launch the pilot study in New York City in 2008 and
is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“This project is
part of WCS’s ‘One World One Health’ initiative, which addresses the health
needs of humans and wildlife locally and globally,” said Dr. Steven Sanderson,
president and CEO of WCS. “WCS has pioneered the practice of helping
governments around the world find potential human public health threats by
monitoring and caring for wildlife populations in their habitats.”
Dr. Smith also
serves as the chair of the New York Bushmeat and Health Committee, a
subcommittee of the New York Department of Health’s Animal Working Group.
Since the New York
City project’s inception, inspection officials and health experts have taken
hundreds of samples of wildlife and wildlife products coming through luggage and
mail parcels through main entry points for both people and goods into New York
City and the United States. Project
participants have collected several hundred samples from at least 14 species,
including great apes, monkeys, rodents, and bats.
While analysis of
the samples is in its early stages, preliminary results have revealed evidence
of two strains of simian foamy virus in wildlife imported as food—known as
“bushmeat”—from three species of primate: two mangabeys and a chimpanzee (all
three of which are endangered). Non-human primate samples have also been tested
for flavivirus and filovirus thus far.
viruses have been found to infect humans but have yet to cause known
disease. The movement of illegal
wildlife and the diseases they carry through national entry points highlights
the health threat that needs to be monitored and prevented. More than 70
percent of zoonoses (diseases that affect both animals and humans) stem from
human contact with wildlife.
“The movement and mixing of humans, wildlife,
and domestic animals as part of the illegal global wildlife trade encourages
transmission of disease and emergence of novel pathogens,” said Dr. William
Karesh of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Global Health Program. “Our pilot
project, still in its early stages, will help identify whether pathogens are
entering the U.S. via bushmeat and other illegal wildlife.”
“This is the type
of interagency cooperation that’s needed to protect the public from possible
diseases that may be entering the country,” said WCS’s Dr. Smith.
WCS assert that such detection efforts are a critical component of national
security, primarily because the United States is the world’s leading consumer
of imported wildlife and wildlife products. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service reported that during 2000-2004, more than one billion individual
animals were imported into the United States, along with an additional five
million kilograms of bushmeat and other animal products.
wildlife origin that have impacted public health through the consumption or
trade of wild animals include monkey pox, SARS, HIV/AIDS (stemming from human
infection with simian immunodeficiency virus), and others.
In addition to
health implications, disease risks from the wildlife trade have had enormous
economic impacts as well. The SARS outbreak of 2003—associated with trade in
small carnivores and ultimately traced to bats —cost the international
community an estimated $40-50 billion dollars in reactive health measures,
declines in travel and commerce, and other cascading economic
The WCS forum where Dr. Smith will further
discuss the project and the organization’s work to stop zoonotic diseases from
entering the United States is open to the media.
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The Wildlife Conservation
Society saves wildlife and wild
places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation,
education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife
parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change
attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in
harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the
integrity of life on Earth.
Special Note to the Media: If
you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a web link where they can
make donations in support of helping save wildlife and wild places, please
direct them to: www.wcs.org/donation