According to the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, a Division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Ebola previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains.

Ebola can cause disease in humans and nonhuman primates, monkeys, gorillas, chimpanzees, and other wildlife.

While we don’t know exactly what factors accelerated the recent outbreak, they have appeared sporadically in Africa. While the 2014 Ebola outbreak is the worst in human history, it is expected there will be more outbreaks in the future.

One of the greatest global health threats lies in emerging diseases, which have never been seen before in humans such as Ebola appear sporadically in new locations. Most emerging diseases are zoonoses, meaning they are caused by pathogens that can spread between animals and humans. Out of more than 300 emerging infections identified since 1940, over 60% are zoonotic, and of these, 72% originate in wildlife.

Whereas some zoonotic infections, such as rabies, are rarely transmitted between human patients, others can spread across populations and borders.

Although the erratic nature and latest emergence of zoonotic pathogens make them extremely difficult to protect against; we aren’t helpless in the face of emerging ones. With the majority of zoonoses being passed from wildlife to humans, it is essential to identify which wildlife species pose the greatest risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention an article printed from the Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal Volume 15, Number 11, November 2009, Risk of Importing Zoonotic Diseases through Wildlife Trade by authors Boris I. Pavlin, Lisa M. Schloegel, and Peter Daszak, the United States is among the world’s largest importers of live wild animals and imported more than 1 billion individual animals during 2000 through 2004. Little disease surveillance is conducted for imported animals; quarantine is required for only wild birds, primates, and some ungulates arriving in the United States, and mandatory testing exists for only a few diseases. Other animals are typically only screened for physical signs of disease, and pathogen testing is delegated to either the United States Department of Agriculture for livestock or the importer. The process of pre-import housing and importation often involves keeping animals at high density and in unnatural groupings of species, providing opportunities for cross species transmission and amplification of known and unknown pathogens. Thus, imported wildlife remain a major public health threat, as exemplified by the importation of Ebola virus in primates from the Philippines, monkeypox from imported African rodents, and possibly HIV from chimpanzees in central Africa. Wildlife importation also poses a great threat to domestic wildlife and the United States agriculture industry. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, England and Russia also had laboratory contamination cases; with the case in Russia resulting in death.

Although infections from zoonotic pathogens are normally associated with consumption of contaminated meat and poultry or from direct contact with farm animals; plants aren’t exempt. Even though animals are the normal hosts for the pathogens; some are well adapted to survival outside their hosts and can take advantage of favorable conditions elsewhere, for example on the roots of plants. In recent years, high profile food borne outbreaks have occurred from consumption of contaminated fresh fruit and vegetables, such as spinach and sprouted seeds and melons. Remember the cantaloupe scare in 2011 of Listeriosis an emerging zoonotic infection? Likewise this alludes to the fact that infection in fact can occur in plant life.

It is recommended that you eat clean: organic meats, vegetables, and dairy products; the cost far exceeds the risk... DO NOT purchase pre packaged meats, fish, poultry, or vegetables without the USDA logo regardless of the brand.

To students in science labs around the globe beware of dissecting animals; check with the head of the department to inquire where these animals came from and request a report of tests performed to detect zoonotic and other infectious diseases. Should your school place demands on you to dissect animals in the science lab without providing you with the report of tests performed; contact your states Board of Regents to file a formal complaint. In the United States each state has a Board of Regents that governs the welfare of its students.

Taxidermists, hunters, and trappers should take precaution as well; especially those on a safari in Africa.