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Canaries in the coal mine

Talk Overview
We are in the middle of an unprecedented emerging zoonotic disease outbreak, COVID-19. In the urgency of the crisis, the focus of efforts has understandably been human-centric. However, the fact that we are dealing with a completely novel zoonotic threat that is believed to have spilled over into humans from animals has been overlooked. We have ignored the other side of the coin of zoonotic threats – the animals themselves. And now there are positive SARS-CoV-2 domestic cats, dogs, mink, ferrets as well as tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo in New York City – and who knows what else. Public health entities and the public want answers. Unfortunately, these answers will not be readily available. But few will realize why this is the case.
Although governments have heavily invested in creating the infrastructure to detect/report/respond to potential pandemic zoonotic threats in low to middle income countries overseas, the same cannot be said of most developed countries. We assume emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) will only involve bats, rats and monkeys in Africa or Asia. In spite of repeated “wake -up” calls about the biosecurity threats we face, existing surveillance efforts largely exclude urban animal sentinels (like dogs, cats, shelter animals, zoo species and local wildlife handled by rehabilitators) and guarantee we will not detect unusual events in sentinel animal species before the disease has already spread into people. It is time for the veterinary community to take the lead in responding to emerging zoonotic threats.


#VetFest 2020
VetFest 2020
#VetFest 2020