Preventing the next pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission


United Nations Environment Programme and International Livestock Research Institute. 2020. Preventing the next pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP.

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In the spirit of the UN Framework for the Immediate Socio-economic Response to COVID-19, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has teamed up with the renowned International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other key partners to develop an evidence-based assessment report on the risk of future zoonotic outbreaks. This report focuses specifically on the environmental side of the zoonotic dimension of disease outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic. It tries to fill a critical knowledge gap and provide policymakers with a better understanding of the context and nature of potential future zoonotic disease outbreaks. It examines the root causes of the COVID-19 pandemic and other zoonoses. The report also looks at where zoonoses come from and how we can reduce the likelihood of their occurrence. The report explores the role of animals, and in particular non-domestic animals, in emerging infectious human diseases. This is essential for our global efforts to improve our response preparedness because the frequency of spillover of pathogenic organisms jumping from animals to humans has been increasing considerably, due to the growing magnitude of our unsustainable natural resource use in today’s world.


Report (20.03Mb) key messages (137.8Kb)

Industrial farming of livestock a ticking pathogen bomb, scientists say

Three years before the virus that causes Covid-19 started making people sick in
China, another novel coronavirus began circulating in the southeast of the country. It
was fatal, but its victims were 25,000 piglets, not humans.

That outbreak was swiftly followed in 2018 by a scourge on a much larger scale–the
Ebola-like African swine fever, which does not infect humans but killed at least 100
million pigs as it raged across China. It threw the country’s pork industry into crisis
and sent the price of China’s favourite meat soaring. The disease is still spreading in

This flurry of outbreaks and the possible link between the Covid-19 human pandemic
to China’s wildlife trade has pressed the authorities to tighten rules.

“There is no perfect way to respond to an emerging disease threat. There will always
be trade-offs”

Prof. Dr. Latiffah Hassan, Universiti Putra Malaysia

Read More On South China Morning Post

Your Pets DON’T Spread COVID-19

If you’re a pet owner, then some of the news reports of animals testing positive for COVID-19 might have had you worried about the risks human to animal or animal to human transmission. We take a look at the current research and whether there is a need to be concerned. 

BFM radio interviews Prof Dr. Latiffah Hassan, Professor in Veterinary Public Health and Epidemiology, to get some inputs on Covid-19.

Produced by: Lim Sue Ann

Presented by: Sharmilla Ganesan, Lim Sue Ann, Dashran Yohan

Should We Be Worried about China’s H5N1 Outbreak? (BFM Segment)

China has reported an outbreak of H5N1 avian flu in a poultry farm in the southern province of Hunan. Amid the 2019-nCoV global health emergency, people are worried about what the avian flu outbreak could potentially lead to.

BFM radio interviews Prof Dr. Latiffah Hassan, Professor in Veterinary Public Health and Epidemiology, to get some inputs on China’s H5N1 outbreak.

Your browser does not support native audio, but you can download this MP3 to listen on your device.

Novel Coronavirus – 2019-nCoV

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency over a new coronavirus that has killed at least 427 people in China.

More than 20,400 cases have been reported worldwide including Malaysia. There 10 reported cases in Malaysia and one of them is a 41-year-old man from Selangor.

What is Coronavirus?

It is a virus with a distinct pedal-shaped projection on the corona. The virus is common in birds and mammals.

Referring to WHO website, coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as SARS and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Coronovires are zoonotic, which means it can be transmitted to humans. The Wuhan virus is the seventh coronavirus that can infect humans, affecting the respiratory system.

Some of the infections are mild while others such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that were first isolated in 2003 and 2012, respectively, are much more dangerous.

Mammals and birds are the natural hosts (reservoirs) of coronaviruses. They carry the viruses in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts without showing signs of infection.

Often, these viruses have an intermediate host before they can infect humans. We know that the natural and intermediate hosts of SARS-CoV are bats and civet cats, while the ones for MERS-CoV are bats and camels.

A novel coronavirus, identified by Chinese authorities on January 7 and named 2019-nCoV, is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans.

Explanation video from WHO about Novel Coronavirus (2019-CoV)

What are the symptoms?

According to the WHO, signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, SARS, kidney failure and even death.

The incubation period of the coronavirus remains unknown. Some sources say it could be between 10 and 14 days.

What We Can Do?

No vaccine is available against the virus. Antibiotics will not work since the disease is caused by a virus. What we can do is take precautions commonly practiced to prevent respiratory flu-like illness.

Drink plenty of water, stay healthy and practice good personal hygiene by washing or disinfecting your hands regularly, especially after touching surface or fomites.

Wear a surgical mask and avoid being in close contact with people who are from infected areas.


One Health Manual on Handling Disease Outbreaks in Malaysia

In the past few decades, several emerging infectious and zoonotic disease outbreaks have occurred at an unprecedented rate, resulting in suffering and the death of human and animals, and an enormous financial burden on society. The unique nature of emerging infectious and zoonotic diseases requires rigorous procedures in outbreak investigation involving a multidisciplinary team — a team of many individuals from different specialties and expertise to collaborate together as one, the goal of One Health.

Outbreak investigations are not only important for immediate identification of the source of the outbreak but also to prevent future outbreaks by increasing the knowledge and skills of the people involved in the investigations. Outbreak investigation provide a unique opportunity for collaboration, training, and cooperation between people with different disciplines. The importance of this collaboration cannot be emphasized enough since collaboration increases strategic thinking and effectiveness, optimizes resources, breaks down the practice and mentality of working in silos. It also fosters the creation of new networks and the expansion of existing networks among professionals through multidisciplinary communication, cooperation, and collaboration.

With the financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) One Health Workforce project, and in collaboration with the University of Minnesota and Tuft University, a multidisciplinary team consisting of members of the Malaysia One Health University Network (MyOHUN) created the One Health Manual: Handling Disease Outbreaks in Malaysia. The creation of this manual provides us with the opportunity to understand our invaluable roles in zoonotic disease prevention and control. This manual is not meant to replace existing manuals or standard operating procedures, but rather, to complement and provide opportunities for field workers to consider all aspects of disease control. It is hoped that this manual will address, to some extent, the numerous issues and barriers related to the implementation of One Health, thereby bridging the gap between concept and implementation.

Users of this Manual should first read the introduction to gain a quick understanding of the One Health Paradigm, as well as its history and development. The six chapters of the manual cover the following topics: (1) Preparations for outbreak investigation, (2) Establish and verify the diagnosis of zoonotic diseases, (3) Laboratory involvement, (4) Developing, evaluating and refining hypotheses, (5) Implementation of control measures, and (6) Communication during outbreak investigations. The authors have done their best to address the topics based on the One Health concept.

Considering this user-friendly multidisciplinary One Health manual on handling disease outbreaks is the first of its kind, we look forward to receiving feedback and suggestions for improvement in future editions, and to provide an avenue to educate the existing and future One Health workforce.

Please contact for more information. The complete manual is available to download on Google Play.