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Introduction 

Introduction
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date: 24 February 2020

Zoonotic diseases are now recognized as a major global threat to human health and sustainable development and a major concern for national and international agencies (Marano et al. 2006). There was a period in the 1960s and 70s when it was widely expected that the antibiotic and vaccine era would relegate infectious diseases to footnotes of history, and in many countries communicable control systems were neglected (Keusch et al. 2009) but the frequent and often dramatic appearance of new infectious agents or the reappearance of well recognized zoonoses has changed perceptions. ‘A wide variety of animal species, domesticated, peri-domesticated and wild, can act as reservoirs for these pathogens, which may be viruses, bacteria, parasites or prions. Considering the wide variety of animal species involved and the often complex natural history of the pathogens concerned, effective surveillance, prevention and control of zoonotic diseases pose a real challenge to public health’ (WHO 2004). No country has been able to anticipate the sudden and sometimes devastating impact of novel agents, and international trade and transport of people, animals and goods have ensured that wherever zoonoses emerge they have to be considered as global issues. The cost of zoonoses can be enormous. The H1N1v pandemic which began in pig herds on the Mexico-US border resulted in major losses to the pork industry amounting to US$25 million per week; fear that transmission could occur from meat led to the banning of importation of pigs and pork products by at least 15 countries (Keusch et al. 2009). And in addition to these ‘natural’ threats, several zoonoses are prime agents for deliberate release by disaffected groups. A more esoteric threat, though nonetheless a real cause of concern, is the possibility of zoonotic emergence from xenotransplantation (Mattiuzzo et al. 2008).

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