A recent collaborative study led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has discovered the proof of retroviruses and herpes viruses in illegal wildlife products at several international airports across the U.S. It was established by scientists from the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia University, EcoHealth Alliance, the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. The pilot study was introduced to test methods to identify potential public health risks by way of such illicit imports that find their way into the nation. Published on Tuesday in the journal PLoS ONE, the study identified illegal wildlife imports, mostly dead animals such as bushmeat and primates like monkeys, destined for human consumption before being confiscated by customs agents. It was also the first to set up port surveillance methodology to check for various diseases associated with the illegal contraband, especially zoonotic viruses.
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The study was based on the belief that with better surveillance of illegal wildlife shipments coming to ports around the country, authorities will have a better chance of preventing any rise of new diseases. While it is unclear as to how harmful these viruses are, the study proved that the illegal wildlife trade is a dangerous path for introducing a new virus into the human population. In addition to public health risks, there is even a potential risk of introducing the variants to the native North American wildlife and agricultural species. The study also explained that the magnitude of non-native wildlife causes damage to the country's ecosystems, as well as slowing down the protection of threatened or endangered species recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Researchers examined 44 animals, which consisted of nine primates and 35 rats. They then conducted genetic techniques to scan for viruses in sampled meat and discovered simian foamy virus, cytomegaloviruses, and lymphocryptoviruses; all of which pose grave threat to humans.
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This article, in my opinion, gives a clear picture about the dangers of illegal wildlife trade as it spans all over the world targeting various nations due to increased demands for endangered exotic wildlife. Little do the operators of these illicit activities know that by transporting and selling illegal wildlife products, they are not only decimating the wildlife but also spreading viruses and diseases to unwary consumers. This is especially seen in the case of the bushmeat trade, where researchers have uncovered viruses such as the simian foamy virus which is life-threatening to humans. However, in addition to primates, other endangered species which fall victim to this illicit and lucrative business are also prone to spreading diseases to the general public. In addition to that, they are also a major threat to the native North American wildlife. And with the ongoing threats from issues like the pet trade, exotic animals are ending up in the wild corners of North America particularly Florida where they are slowing down the protection of the native endangered species. This is why it is extremely crucial to put a stop to the illegal wildlife trade to save the lives of both wild animals and people in the U.S.
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