According to the World Health Organization, the number of outbreaks of diseases that spread from animals to people in Africa has increased by more than 60% in the past ten years. This is a concerning indication that the world may soon see an increase in animal-borne illnesses like monkeypox, Ebola, and coronavirus.
According to a statement released on Thursday by the U.N. health agency, there has been a 63 percent increase in the number of animal diseases crossing the species barrier between 2012 and 2022 compared to the previous ten years.
According to WHO, the number of important public health events in Africa that originated in animals and ultimately infected humans increased significantly between 2019 and 2020. Seventy percent of such outbreaks were caused by diseases like Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers, in addition to ailments like monkeypox, dengue, anthrax, and plague.
The WHO’s Africa director, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement that “we must act immediately to manage zoonotic illnesses before they may cause widespread epidemics and prevent Africa from becoming a hotspot for new infectious diseases.”
Although humans in Africa have been affected by animal diseases for generations, new advancements like faster travel throughout the continent have made it simpler for viruses to traverse borders, according to her.
WHO also observed that Africa has the fastest-growing population in the world, which accelerates urbanization and constricts the space available for wild animals to wander. Scientists worry that epidemics that may have previously been limited to remote, rural areas may now spread more swiftly to Africa’s major cities with connections to the rest of the world, where they could then spread the diseases.
When the West African Ebola epidemic broke out in 2014, it wasn’t until the disease reached the nation’s capitals that its expansion erupted, killing more than 10,000 people and spreading to many cities in Europe and the United States.
Monkeypox has been a major cause of epidemics in central and West Africa for decades, but until May, it was not known to spread to other parts of the world. The majority of the 65 nations where cases have been documented so far had not previously reported monkeypox, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A WHO emergency conference will be held the following week to decide whether or not monkeypox should be classified as a worldwide emergency. The organization stated last month that the outbreak did not yet warrant the designation but added that it will examine matters including the potential for monkeypox to infect more vulnerable groups, such as children, and whether the virus is causing more severe sickness.