Officials in New York have identified two strains of simian foamy virus in wildlife imported as food — known as “bushmeat” — from three primate species: two mangabey monkeys and a chimpanzee, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). All of these animals are also endangered. Preliminary studies show that humans can contract simian foamy virus, but its long-term effects remain unknown. Could another AIDS-like epidemic therefore be on the horizon? The WCS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others are working now to prevent that from happening. A symposium called “Wildlife Conservation and Human Health” has taken place at Rockefeller University.
Diseases of wildlife origin that have impacted public health through the consumption or trade of wild animals include monkey pox, SARS, HIV/AIDS (stemming from human infection with simian immunodeficiency virus), and others. In addition to health implications, disease risks from the wildlife trade have had enormous economic impacts as well. The SARS outbreak of 2003—associated with trade in small carnivores and ultimately traced to bats —cost the international community an estimated $40-50 billion dollars in reactive health measures, declines in travel and commerce, and other cascading economic factors.
Mangabey monkey (Credit: Keven Law)
Smoked bushmeat for sale at market (Credit: Tom Daspit)
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