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Until we start thinking of human and animal health as linked, another coronavirus is inevitable

Our health systems still divide the world into neat categories: doctors take care of humans, veterinarians of animals, environmentalists of ecosystems. Covid-19 has shown that approach is no longer tenable, writes Jimmy Smith

Wednesday 26 February 2020 11:34 GMT
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Winter Sonata, a Persian breed, gets a combing during Vietnam’s first national cat show in Hanoi on 16 February
Winter Sonata, a Persian breed, gets a combing during Vietnam’s first national cat show in Hanoi on 16 February (AFP/Getty)

The coronavirus (or Covid-19) currently wreaking havoc in northern China and on global markets is not the first to pass from animals to humans. And unless we take a new approach to protecting human and animal health, it won’t be the last.

In fact, a new zoonosis – a disease transmitted between animals and people – breaks out on average every four months. A few, like Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome), Mers (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and Covid-19 attract global headlines and prompt massive humanitarian assistance and scientific research programmes.

Others burn themselves out before attracting much attention, although not before infecting some veterinarians and others in close proximity to animals.

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