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.
(The mother of this chimpanzee from Cameroon was killed by poachers and likely sold as bushmeat. Credit: Brian Smithson)
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" is taking place today at
“This project is part of WCS’s ‘One World One Health’
initiative, which addresses the health needs of humans and wildlife locally and
globally,” said Steven Sanderson, president and CEO of WCS. “WCS has
pioneered the practice of helping governments around the world find potential
human public health threats by monitoring and caring for wildlife populations
in their habitats.”
Inspection and health officials have seized hundreds of
samples of wildlife and wildlife products coming through luggage and mail
parcels through main entry points for both people and goods into New York City
and the United States. Samples have been taken from at least 14 species,
including great apes, monkeys, rodents, and bats.
In addition to the simian foamy virus, the officials have
also been testing for flavivirus and filovirus, but those results haven't been
released yet. More than 70 percent of zoonoses, which are diseases that affect
both animals and humans, stem from human contact with wildlife.
“The movement and mixing of humans, wildlife, and domestic
animals as part of the illegal global wildlife trade encourages transmission of
disease and emergence of novel pathogens,” said William Karesh of the
Wildlife Conservation Society’s Global Health Program.
“This is the type of interagency cooperation that’s needed
to protect the public from possible diseases that may be entering the country,” added the WCS’s Kristine Smith.
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, more than
one billion individual animals were imported into the United States from 2000
to 2004, along with over 11 million pounds of bushmeat and other
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),