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Reduce the Risk: A Crisis in Human and Animal Health

“Our current COVID-19 crisis was knowable, predictable and preventable. And unless we learn these lessons and take steps to reduce related risks, the same will be true of the next pandemic, and the next.”
-Dan Ashe, President and CEO, Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Zoonotic diseases, infections caused by a pathogen shared between animals and people, are a serious threat to both human and animal health worldwide. In fact, more than two-thirds of all emerging infectious human diseases are zoonotic. The wildlife supply chain—both legal and illegal—presents opportunities for zoonotic disease transmission.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), is the most recent example of zoonotic origin disease that led to a pandemic, but it’s far from the first. The 2002-03 SARS pandemic originated in a live animal market in Guangdong, China. That pandemic impacted more than 8,000 people globally. The 2002-03 SARS pandemic, the 2003 monkeypox virus outbreak in the U.S., the HIV/AIDS pandemic, H1N1 “Swine Flu” pandemic (2009-2019), and West African Ebola epidemic (2015-2016) were all caused as a result of zoonotic diseases.

To address this ongoing global crisis, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) launched a new initiative. “Reduce the Risk: A Crisis in Human and Animal Health” aims to reduce zoonotic disease threats by combating wildlife trade that poses a risk to human and animal health. Through its Government Affairs and Wildlife Trafficking Alliance programs, AZA has already committed to combating illegal wildlife trade, in addition to addressing unsustainable trade in wildlife. This new initiative will advocate for stricter regulations, enforcement, and transparency on all forms of wildlife trade (both legal and illegal) that pose a threat to human and animal health. Learn more.