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Wildlife trade bringing viruses to U.S.

Jan. 10, 2012 at 6:37 PM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- A study has found evidence of retroviruses in illegally imported wildlife and animal products seized at several U.S. international airports, researchers say.

The study led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clearly demonstrates potential human health risks from the illegal wildlife trade at major international travel hubs, a release from the American Museum of Natural History said Tuesday.

The global trade in wildlife has contributed to the emergence of new diseases in livestock, native wildlife and humans as international travel creates a pathway to disease emergence in animals and humans, researchers said.

"The increase in international travel and trade brings with it an increased risk of unmonitored pathogens via the illegal wildlife trade," said Denise McAloose, chief pathologist for the Global Health Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

In addition to animals, illegally imported bushmeat was monitored in the study.

"Exotic wildlife pets and bushmeat are Trojan horses that threaten humankind at sites where they are collected in the developing world as well as the United States," W. Ian Lipkin of Columbia said.

"Our study underscores the importance of surveillance at ports, but we must also encourage efforts to reduce demand for products that drive the wildlife trade."

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