I’m Paris, the newest member of the Current Global health team based in London.
I have been passionate about health since I was young, and always knew I wanted to pursue a career related to global public health. In September 2020, I started my master’s degree in Global Health as part of my academic studies. During this time, COVID-19 was rife, mysterious, and all-consuming. Remember that strange time when the world locked down and no one really understood what was happening and how it was all going to end?
In school, there was one lecture that I loved more than the rest, and it excited me to attend every week. It was called the Human-Animal-Ecosystem Interface, and at first lecture, the professor kicked off with this introductory statement:
“75% of all new or re-emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals”.
75%?! He had my attention!
Thinking about diseases that have appeared since the mid 70’s alone – Ebola, HIV, Avian Influenza, Swine Flu – each has had its share of global attention and caused its own trail of devastation and panic. And each has come from animals.
These are examples of zoonotic diseases, which can be transmitted between animals and humans. There are currently over 250 known zoonotic diseases worldwide, and this figure will continue to grow.
Understanding how zoonotic diseases develop and take hold of the human population, what surprised me most was that COVID-19 shocked everyone as much as it did. A virus from an animal could not possibly cause the world to shut down, could it?
The reality is that animal-sourced viruses have long been of great concern and scientists had been warning of them being the cause of a global pandemic for many years. And then it happened, and we’ve now all experienced how our relationship with animals can cause new viruses to emerge, spread uncontrollably, and lead to human disease and death on a scale never seen before.
Is there a silver lining to be found or is this just a reminder that scientists told us so? For me, the good thing that’s come out of what we lived through during the pandemic is that the world has become more aware and receptive of the very real risk of zoonotic diseases, providing a window of opportunity to highlight the importance of the interconnection between human and animal health.
It’s also one of the main reasons I chose health communications as a path for my career. Working with the clients I support here at Current Global, I can share important information and facts about various subjects in health, including ones that I personally feel passionate about, like this one.
Respecting the environment we share with animals and contributing to making it a better, healthier place to live for us all is a personal purpose of mine. Taking a real interest in public health needs to be so much more than just viewing health through a purely human lens. I urge all of us to pay attention to our interconnected nature.
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