The world today is a highly interconnected place in which people, animals, and vectors – as well as the pathogens they carry or transmit – are only an airplane flight away from any point on the globe. In addition, the interface between humans and animals is ever increasing, whether due to crowding and commerce, or due to human colonization of previously uninhabited or sparsely populated settings. These factors create a perfect environment for rapid spread of zoonotic diseases.
Recent outbreaks of diseases of zoonotic origin, such as SARS, MERS, Foot and Mouth disease, BSE, avian influenza, BSE, and Nipah virus have caused not only major human suffering but also enormous economic cost. As an example, SARS is estimated to have cost 30-50 billion dollars in economic loss. The same interconnectedness that has made the world vulnerable to large-scale zoonotic outbreaks also presents an opportunity to function as a global public health community in building capacity to respond to zoonotic diseases of epidemic/pandemic potential.