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Wildlife Products Smuggled Into U.S. Pose Potential Human Health Risk, Study Suggests

“In a new study published on Tuesday in the journal PLoS One, scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the EcoHealth Alliance, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other institutions reported on the first effort to identify new viruses in wildlife products that had been smuggled illegally into the U.S.,” TIME’s “Ecocentric” blog reports (Walsh, 1/11). According to BBC News, retroviruses and herpesviruses were identified in meats confiscated at U.S. airports, “some of them isolated from remains of endangered monkey species,” and the “authors say better surveillance measures are needed to ensure this trade does not result in the emergence of new disease outbreaks in humans” (1/11).

“It is not yet clear as to how harmful these zoonotic viruses really are but the study confirmed that wildlife and wildlife trade was yet another dangerous path for introducing a new virus into the human population,” International Business Times writes (Dastidar, 1/11). “The global trade in wildlife has contributed to the emergence of new diseases in livestock, native wildlife and humans as international travel creates a pathway to disease emergence in animals and humans, researchers said,” UPI notes (1/10). According to the Ecocentric blog, “75 percent of the new emerging viruses in recent history started out in animals before jumping to human beings” (1/11).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.