Humans and wildlife in Britain threatened by diseases from imported animals

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) says far more needs to be done to prevent imported animals spreading diseases to humans and wildlife in Britain.

In a new report the society says a national monitoring agency needs to be set up to detect diseases more quickly and to help prevent them from spreading.

Experts say that around 75% of emerging diseases in humans come from animals, including AIDS, bird flu and West Nile virus, yet animals continue to be moved across borders with very little scrutiny, says ZSL.

Animals are moved around by a variety of means which include the pet trade, hunting and tourism.

Dr Andrew Cunningham, of the society, says that many wildlife diseases can be transmitted to livestock and even to humans.

Today scientists are increasingly concerned about the threat from bird flu and Dr Cunningham says it is essential that the UK has increased protection from the danger of emerging infectious diseases which can devastate native wildlife and pose a real hazard to human health.

Native British species have already suffered due to diseases spread by imported animals.

The decline of red squirrels has been attributed to the parapox virus, the death of hundreds of thousands of native frogs due to ranavirus, and the near extinction of crayfish due to fungal disease.

The poison arrow frog carries an infection that kills European frog species.

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