EcoHealth Alliance

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EcoHealth Alliance
Founded 1971
Founder Gerald Durrell
Focus Wildlife conservation, Conservation medicine
Location
  • New York City, New York
Area served
Worldwide
Slogan Local Conservation, Global Health
Formerly called
Wildlife Trust
[1]

EcoHealth Alliance is a global environmental health non-profit organization that employs a ‘One Health' approach to its research and programs to find impactful solutions that protect human, animal, and environmental health.

Their mission statement reads: “EcoHealth Alliance leads cutting-edge research into the critical connections between human and wildlife health and delicate ecosystems. With this science we develop solutions that promote conservation and prevent pandemics.”[2]

Headquartered in the Hudson Yards neighborhood of New York City, the organization has active projects in over 30 countries worldwide. EcoHealth Alliance focuses on the emergence of disease as caused by deforestation and human-wildlife conflict in bio-diverse regions around the globe. Predicting and preventing those emerging infectious zoonotic diseases is at the core of the organization’s programs. Programs are connected through a ‘One Health’ approach to solve the complex issues that face wildlife, human and environmental health from land-use and climate change. EcoHealth Alliance employs a multi-disciplinary group of research scientists, veterinarians, epidemiologists, ecologists, economists, data technologists, and anthropologists. The organization’s scientists have been published in prominent scientific journals like Nature, The Lancet, and Science.

EcoHealth Alliance often works in an investigative capacity with foreign ministries, local scientists, universities, and other NGOs to identify and monitor novel and emergent diseases. The continual monitoring of known zoonotic diseases and the discovery of novel viruses assists in creating a vanguard to prevent new disease outbreaks. The organization has researched the emergence of diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Nipah virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Rift Valley fever, and Ebola virus, among others.

Working with policymakers in an advisory capacity, EcoHealth Alliance also offers ecosystem and public health expertise to different organizational and governmental bodies like the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The organization also works to raise awareness on the global wildlife trade, informing policy makers and organizations like the WHO on threats of disease and environmental damage posed by the global trade and distribution of illegal trade in wildlife.

EcoHealth Alliance recently announced its fifth consecutive 4 star rating on Charity Navigator.

History[edit]

EcoHealth Alliance was founded under the name Wildlife Preservation Trust International in Philadelphia 1971 by British naturalist, author, and television personality Gerald Durrell as the international wing of the UK-based Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust. The two organizations are no longer affiliated.

The organization changed its name from Wildlife Preservation Trust International to The Wildlife Trust in 1999, before being renamed again as EcoHealth Alliance [3] in the fall of 2010. The re-branding reflected a change in the organization’s focus, going from a conservation nonprofit which focused mainly on the captive breeding of endangered species, to an environmental health organization with a conservation foundation.[4]

Scientists and collaborators from the organization coined the term ‘conservation medicine,’ and held the first professional conservation medicine meeting to define the field in 1996.[5] They went on to organize and publish the first edited volume on the field through Oxford University Press in 2002—Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice.[6]

In February, 2008, EcoHealth Alliance published a paper in Nature entitled “Global trends in emerging infectious diseases” which featured the first rendition of a global disease hotspot map.[7] Using epidemiological, social, and environmental data from the past 50 years, the map outlined regions of the globe most at risk for emergent disease threats.

Activities[edit]

The organization partners with USAID on the PREDICT subset of the USAID’s EPT (Emerging Pandemic Threats) program.[8] Many of EcoHealth Alliance’s international collaborations with in-country organizations and institutions fall under the PREDICT umbrella. A large part of international field work is centered around bio-surveillance, and the training of local technicians and veterinarians in animal sampling and information gathering.

A recent collaboration with the Chinese CDC aims to strengthen bio-surveillance capabilities in Guilin, China—an emerging disease ‘hotspot.’ This work includes reevaluating policies vis-a-vis land-use change and deforestation. It also seeks to regulate wildlife, or wet markets—places where the 2003 SARS epidemic is thought to have erupted. This can be seen as an extension of research conducted in 2005 which identified Chinese Horseshoe bats as the most probable source of the SARS epidemic.

In recent years, efforts have been made in Sabah, Malaysia to better understand the impacts of local deforestation and land-use change, especially in association with the palm oil industry. Research on the increased risk of zoonoses and the negative economic effects associated with environmental degradation are used to inform sustainable alternatives for the country’s business leaders and its policy makers.[9] This program, called IDEEAL (The Infectious Disease Emergence and Economics of Altered Landscapes Program), is centered at the Development and Health Research Unit (DHRU) in Malaysia, cofounded with University Malaysia Sabah.

Work with Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Bangladesh focuses on Nipah virus. EcoHealth Alliance, and local veterinarians monitor the disease in populations of Flying Fox bats that live in close proximity to human populations. As with all PREDICT programs, emphasis is placed on the detection of novel diseases.

Working closely with King Saud University and the Saudi government, EcoHealth Alliance scientists travelled to Saudi Arabia during the initial outbreak of MERS.[10] Following an investigation begun in the fall of 2012, and working with Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity, EcoHealth Alliance scientists were instrumental in determining the likely source of MERS to be bats, and its intermediary host to be camels.

In 2014, a survey of rats in New York City conducted by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health showed the rats carry numerous illness-causing pathogens, including bacteria that cause food poisoning (such as salmonella and E. coli) and dermatitis, pathogens that cause fevers (such as Seoul hantavirus and Leptospira), sapoviruses, cardioviruses, kobuviruses, parechoviruses, rotaviruses, and hepaciviruses, and some viruses never before seen in New York and some previously unknown to science.[11] Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, called the study "shocking and surprising", and described it as "a recipe for a public health nightmare."[12]

Bat conservation: A growing body of research indicates that bats are an important factor in both ecosystem health, and disease emergence. A number of hypotheses have been proposed for the high number of zoonoses that have come from bat populations in recent decades. One group of researchers hypothesized “that flight, a factor common to all bats but to no other mammals, provides an intensive selective force for coexistence with viral parasites through a daily cycle that elevates metabolism and body temperature analogous to the febrile response in other mammals. On an evolutionary scale, this host-virus interaction might have resulted in the large diversity of zoonotic viruses in bats, possibly through bat viruses adapting to be more tolerant of the fever response and less virulent to their natural hosts.” [13]

Analytics: Having developed its own platforms to process epidemiological data, it has also recently expanded its activities to include economic analyses on the impacts of deforestation, land-use change, and global climate change.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Wildlife Trust Rebrands as EcoHealth Alliance". Corporate Eye. September 20, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Wildlife Conservation and Pandemic Prevention - EcoHealth Alliance". EcoHealth Alliance. Retrieved 2016-10-14. 
  3. ^ "Wildlife Trust Rebrands as EcoHealth Alliance". www.corporate-eye.com. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  4. ^ SAFE: Save Animals From Extinction. Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust Newsletters.
  5. ^ Consortium for Conservation Medicine Trifold. Wildlife Trust
  6. ^ Aguirre, Alonso (2002). Conservation Medicine: Ecological Health in Practice. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195150937. 
  7. ^ Jones, Kate E.; Patel, Nikkita G.; Levy, Marc A.; Storeygard, Adam; Balk, Deborah; Gittleman, John L.; Daszak, Peter (2008-02-21). "Global trends in emerging infectious diseases". Nature. 451 (7181): 990–993. doi:10.1038/nature06536. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 18288193. 
  8. ^ "Emerging Pandemic Threats | Fact Sheet | U.S. Agency for International Development". www.usaid.gov. Retrieved 2016-10-26. 
  9. ^ Morrison, Jim. "Did Deforestation Contribute to Zika's Spread?". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  10. ^ Memish, Ziad A.; Mishra, Nischay; Olival, Kevin J.; Fagbo, Shamsudeen F.; Kapoor, Vishal; Epstein, Jonathan H.; AlHakeem, Rafat; Durosinloun, Abdulkareem; Al Asmari, Mushabab (2016-10-26). "Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus in Bats, Saudi Arabia". Emerging Infectious Diseases. 19 (11): 1819–1823. doi:10.3201/eid1911.131172. ISSN 1080-6040. PMC 3837665Freely accessible. PMID 24206838. 
  11. ^ Lindsay Deutsch (October 15, 2014). "Researchers uncover the disgusting truth about NYC rats". USA Today. 
  12. ^ Zimmer, Carl. "Rats and Their Alarming Bugs". The New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2014. 
  13. ^ al., T. J. O’Shea et (2014). "Bat Flight and Zoonotic Viruses - Volume 20, Number 5—May 2014 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC". Emerging Infect. Dis. 20: 741–5. doi:10.3201/eid2005.130539. PMC 4012789Freely accessible. PMID 24750692. 

External links[edit]