"When we ask ourselves why we are seeing the emergence of so many zoonotic diseases, we can see there are a number of factors," explains Dr. Jeffrey Bender, who teaches classes on zoonotic disease both in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Public Health. "There are ecological factors and changes, like deforestation and also reforestation ...There's the trade in exotic animals, global travel, and even changes in modern agricultural practices such as the use of meat and bonemeal as a cheap source of food for cattle..."
Keep in mind, "The Animal Connection" was written eight years ago. Enter Ebola 2014. With 4033 deaths and 8399 probable or suspected cases in seven countries to date, the World Health Organization reports it is the deadliest Ebola outbreak the world has seen, and Dr. Bender's research remains front and center.
As a former infectious disease epidemiologist for the Minnesota Department of Health; principal investigator for a CDC-funded project on zoonotic influenza infections; and co-director for human-animal interfaced studies at the Minnesota Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance, Dr. Bender knows a thing or two about Ebola.
For one, he asserts that the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa illustrates the challenges of controlling emergent diseases in resource-poor settings. This includes the need for a trained workforce; supplies for infection control and prevention; and infrastructure coordination for the care of the ill, dying, and deceased. In addition, there is a need for bedside diagnostic tests and effective preventatives and treatments. Yet, Bender cautions, this would only address direct medical needs and not the unanticipated societal costs, of which there are many.
Some of these reflect our limited understanding of the anthropologic and social structures of West African society. This current outbreak is impacting local economies, food production, and country stability in West Africa.
Join us November 6, when Dr. Bender will lead the conversation about how to rethink the global response to Ebola and in so doing, provide effective support for future disease control efforts and interventions.