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Editorial: Take care to avoid animal-borne diseases

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

As Southeast Missouri residents learn about the latest in a string of diseases that have jumped from the animal kingdom to humans, it's only natural to be concerned.

First came the West Nile virus, which local health officials say undoubtedly will be around again this year. It is relayed from birds to humans by mosquitoes. There's no cure, and the symptoms are flulike.

Then there was SARS, a respiratory illness that apparently began in China where people were eating civets, a type of feline. Again, there is no treatment or cure.

Now monkeypox is in the news. It is a relative of smallpox found in Africa. The apparent reason it's spreading through the United States is because a Gambian giant rat was stored in the same container as some prairie dogs headed for an exotic pet distributor in northern Illinois. Now the prairie dogs are carrying the disease to their owners, giving the humans fevers, rashes, chills and aches.

The good news about all of these illnesses is they're extremely rare. Many people infected with SARS and West Nile won't ever realize that was the cough or headache they were battling.

The best offense against any of these diseases is an education. There have been several articles on each in the Southeast Missourian. Lots of information is available at your leisure:

www.health.state.mo.us

www.cdc.gov.


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