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Reduce Interaction with Animals to Avoid Re- Emergence of Diseases: Expert Warns

By Julie Ekong

Stakeholders in the health sector have identified man ‘s activities with wild animals as the reason for the emerging and re – emergence of infectious diseases despite efforts by researchers to proffer solutions to the problem.

A Public Health Physician, Dr Japhet Olugbogi, who made this known at this year’s Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN) Annual Symposium with the theme: “Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious diseases: Implications and Solutions” said, those diseases whose incidence in humans have increased in the past two decades or threatened to increase are those that persist and cannot be controlled.

Dr Olugbogi identified some of the infectious diseases to include, HIV, SARS, Lyme disease, dengue fever, West Nile virus, Zika virus,
Ebola, Flu Viruses, (Swine Flu), Avian Influenza (Bird Flu), Covid19 and Monkeypox among others.

According to him, Severe Acute Respiratory virus and Ebola virus, have increased significantly over time, adding that, findings carried out by Jones et. al indicates that 54.3% of EID are caused by bacteria/rickettsia.

“Pathogens can re-emerge with new characteristics, such as multidrug resistance, or in different places, such as Ebola virus in West Africa in 2013, monkeypox in Europe and America in 2022, and Zika virus in Brazil in 2015, to cause new epidemics “.

Dr Olugbogi said, research has shown that there are 1400 known human pathogens, 60% of which are transmitted to humans through animals and depend on an animal reservoir for survival, including bush meats.

An additional 5–10% according to him, is environmentally transmitted, and the remainder is through human-to-human transmission the proportion of zoonotic infections among emerging infection diseases (EID) is even higher (73%), indicating that the human–animal route is a big risk for occurrence.

Dr Olugbogi noted that, EID origins are mainly connected with socio-economic, environmental, and ecological factors which are emerging disease hotspots.

He suggested timely vaccination, behavioural change, environmental protection, nutritional and lifestyle modification as some of the ways to curb the menace.

Earlier, the Chairman of the occasion, President, Healthcare Providers Association of Nigeria (HCPAN), Dr Jimmy Arigbabuwo commended HEWAN for the theme of the conference describing it as apt and timely especially now that the world is suffering from emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

He noted that, the sub-theme “Achieving Universal Health Coverage through Mandatory Health Insurance: Role of National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA)” is also in line with the objective of the present administration and what all Nigerians were yearning for.

He stressed that “although, animals and plants are created for man’s existence, but expressed worry, that COVID-19 has gone does not mean another one will not come, be it bacteria or virus or an animal, it is not clear, but something will happen “.

He expressed worry that non-infectious diseases and non-contagious problems including hypertension, high blood pressure, cancers, that have become a threat to this region more than ever before, the time they surface and the ages affected are not the usual known to medical experts.

“We now have people in their 20s or 30s suffering strokes, we have cancer diseases affecting the under-age as well as adult and elderly people.

Dr Arigbabuwo urged members of the public to take their health status seriously by taking advantage of free health programmes and keying into the National Health Insurance.

He commended HEWAN for choosing this theme to address the issue of infectious diseases.

In her contributions, a Medical Scientist, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos, Prof. Stella Smith, decried the neglect of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a pathogen that causes peptic ulcer infections.

Prof. Smith said Helicobacter pylori is a neglected pathogen, adding that about 50 per cent of the world’s population is infected.

She said that the treatment for H. Pylori was based on a recommended antisecretory combination of drugs and antibiotics.

“Unfortunately, due to misuse and overuse of antibiotics, several bacterial pathogens including H. pylori have developed resistance to antibiotics, and it is posing big challenge to the effective treatment and eradication of H. pylori infection “.

“There is no treatment regimen which guarantees cure of H. pylori infection in 100 per cent of patients,” she said.

The researcher said that the selected treatments must consider local antibiotic resistance patterns (if known), previous exposure and allergies to specific antibiotics, cost, side effects, and ease of administration.

According to her, “With the widespread number of resistance studies showing to commonly prescribed antibiotics in Africa, it is time to produce a consensus guideline to guide clinicians on the choice of antibiotic combination for H. pylori eradication,”.

Professor Smith, urged people with the infection to go for proper medical evaluation and treatment and also embrace good hygiene.

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