COVID-19: Maintaining ecological balance stops zoonoses

Transmission of zoonoses. (Photo courtesy of UNEP).

The outbreak of COVID-19 that was initially identified in China in December 2019 continues to grow.

Researchers, scientists and scholars across the globe are working tirelessly to get a cure that will help stop COVID-19.

The disease is said to have originated from an interaction between a human being and a wild animal. According to statistics, as of 6th April, 2020, 1,274,589 COVID-19 cases had been reported worldwide, with 69, 488 deaths and 264,838 recoveries.

University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor Prof. Stephen Kiama stresses on the need to always maintain ecological balance to stop zoonoses like COVID19.

Zoonoses are defined as infectious diseases caused by pathogens that have jumped from non-human animals to humans.

Prof. Kiama, a Professor of Veterinary Anatomy and Surgeon warns against eating uninspected meat saying this could be the genesis of a zoonosis.

“There are so many diseases, for instance every meat needs to be inspected before it is consumed by human beings because you can get a disease from the animal. You can get anthrax, tuberculosis, Rift Valley Fever and many other diseases,”Prof. Kiama says.

This calls for veterinary officers, medical doctors, and environmentalists to work very closely to ensure that the ecological balance is maintained at all costs.

He says if the environment is disrupted in a certain way, for instance floods caused by blockage of water channels will result to breeding of mosquitoes which will pick Rift Valley Fever from the animals and pass it to human beings.

Wild animals have a lot of pathogens, but human beings don’t interact with them at most times as they do with domesticated ones.

There are times where these wild animals are captured and taken to a market for sell that is where human beings interact with the animals so closely and the pathogens are passed to them.

“We therefore have to ensure that we keep a balance all the time between the animals and human beings, it is the way God created it, and if you have a disruption of one or you don’t allow animals to live the way they are supposed to live then you go living with them you are likely to get a disease from them or pass to them and they also pass to other animals,” the VC notes.

According to the VC, this is referred to as one health and everybody must be aware of it and continuously do research to ensure that it is maintained as one health not to isolate human and animal and the environment alone but work in an integrated way all the time.

He points out that meet inspection by a veterinary officers is key, as they have the expertise to establish if meat is fit for human consumption.

“A veterinary officer will always observe and cut some certain areas of meat for inspection because there are some things we know and even know where they are found when an animal is slaughtered,” Prof. Kiama says.

It should be a mandatory exercise for veterinary officers to go very early in the morning to every slaughterhouse every day and ensure that every animal is inspected before it is slaughtered

“This is the only time we get closest to these animals because we don’t know where they were reared and if it is in the forest then you must also be very careful because in the forest we don’t interact with them closely because they are wild, they keep a distance and you also keep a distance,” he says.

It is always good to be aware that you cannot just go and interact with wild animals without being aware that they can have some pathogens which you have not been exposed to.

If you get a new pathogen which animals have learned how to survive with it and you interact with it you will go down with the disease.

Virologists from UoN had started identifying those types of viruses in some of the animals much earlier, now they are also going to be involved in public health issues on how to ensure that people are properly educated in the manner they interact with animals and people who may be infected.