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The Fit Between Wildlife Health and Human Health

Categories: Zoonotic Disease

Wildlife Disease Association's logo

“Wildlife Health from Land to Sea: Impacts of a Changing World.” That was the theme of the 58th annual meeting of the Wildlife Disease Association, held earlier this month. I had the pleasure of attending this conference along with several colleagues from the National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-borne, and Enteric Diseases (NCZVED).

Our work in NCZVED focuses on understanding infectious diseases in an interconnected world of people, animals and environment. Attending, and this year sponsoring, meetings like this one help us stay in touch with the scientific community that looks at the health and diseases of wild animals.

Jim Mills of NCZVED’s Special Pathogens Branch is now the editor of the association’s Journal of Wildlife Diseases and it was his idea to have a stronger presence at the annual meeting this year. Tracee Treadwell, NCZVED’s Associate Director for Zoonotic and Epidemiologic Science, was a plenary speaker, emphasizing the importance of wildlife professionals thinking about how their science can be applied to human health. And Charles Rupprecht of CDC’s rabies program presented on the role of bats in lyssavirus, the group of viruses that includes rabies.

Karoun Bagamian presents her field studies on hantavirus transmission.

Karoun Bagamian presents her field studies on hantavirus transmission.

With a full week of workshops, presentations and field trips, the conference offered an opportunity to meet the members. Public health is one of ten areas of focus for the association, and we found there were many papers and posters presented on diseases that affect both people and animals. Hantavirus, Ebola hemorrhagic fever and Rift Valley fever were all discussed, and the science, whether you’re looking at animals or people, is similar and complementary. Understanding animal diseases and the environment gives us keys to understanding disease in humans. CDC has much to contribute to, and gain from, discussions in the years ahead.

In addition to being a part of the presentations, we created a poster describing the mission of NCZVED and even found a way to incorporate a space where we could show video of CDC staff working in a variety of settings. We found that was a great way to engage the meeting attendees.

Jim Mills of CDC's Special Pathogens Branch and conference attendees enjoy a moment discussing CDC's work in animal and human health.

Jim Mills of CDC's Special Pathogens Branch and conference attendees enjoy a moment discussing CDC's work in animal and human health.

We made a lot of new friends at the conference. One of the Wildlife Disease Association members is studying the transmission of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in non-human primates in Africa, and he’s coming to visit us so we can talk about possible collaboration.

Opportunities like this to learn from each other and work in partnership are one of the keys to our future success in dealing with infectious diseases.

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