Human and Animal Health Interactions: Computer Supported Communications Mitigate Pandemic Risks of Avian Influenza
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Innovations in Sharing Environmental Observations and Information
Food safety is an assumed and necessary element of food production and marketing in developed countries, and increasingly in developing countries which are turning increased attention to providing safe food to their citizens. It is a critical element of the global food system wherein foods are sourced from many countries around the world. Despite strong food safety systems in place in such countries as the United States and Germany, occasionally food-borne illness outbreaks occur. Firms invest financial and human resources to prevent microbial pathogens, carcinogenic chemicals, and other harmful substances from entering their food products, and governments monitor compliance with established food safety regulations. Many firms invest in food safety measures that well exceed minimum requirements in order to differentiate their products in the market. Another aspect of food production and marketing which may have serious repercussions for consumers is animal diseases which can impact food supplies, international trade and human health worldwide. Particularly concerning is the potential for zoonotic diseases to be transmitted from food animals to humans, and even to create readily transmissible forms of human influenza viruses from mutations of animal and human forms of the disease to create pandemic conditions. The occurrence of emerging zoonotic diseases created under natural conditions has increased in recent years and is especially threatening to human health. Globalization of the food supply system and increased international travel make transmission much more rapid, perhaps even exceeding the ability to identify initial disease outbreaks and take action to isolate them. Examples include bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), avian influenza, Escherichia coli O157-H7—an especially virulent e-coli strain occurring in livestock that has been at the center of some major food safety incidents in the United States and other countries in recent years, and swine flu.