Study: Infectious Disease Spread Is Fueled By International Trade

Infectious Disease Spread
Researchers say growing international trade is encouraging the spread of infectious disease, especially among livestock. Photo by Moments by Mullineux/Shutterstock

TEMPE, Ariz., Dec. 22 (UPI) — A new study published in the journal Food Security suggests the growth of international trade has spurred the spread of infectious disease. The paper also contends most governments are ill-prepared to manage outbreaks and curb the spread of disease.

Lead study author Charles Perrings, a professor of environmental economics at Arizona State, wants policy makers to heed the warnings offered by recent outbreaks of infectious disease among both human and livestock populations.

Of course, international trade is not going away. In fact, economies are increasingly reliant upon global trade.

Perrings wants governments to do more to protect people and animals against the spread of disease, and to protect economies from the disruption caused by outbreaks.

“The more trade grows as a proportion of global production, the more likely it is that diseases will be spread through trade, and the higher the economic cost of resulting trade bans,” Perrings explained in a press release.

“In addition many infectious diseases that affect animals also affect people,” he added. “Zoonoses like SARS, MERS, HIV AIDS, or highly pathogenic avian influenza, all originated in wild animals and were then spread person to person through trade and travel.”

Perrings says part of the problem is that the risk of disease is currently unaccounted for in economic markets. There are few incentives for the companies that engage in and encourage international trade to better protect consumers.

“Exporters and importers need to be confronted with the risks they impose on consumers,” Perrings said.

Another part of the problem is disparity between developed and emerging countries. Poorer nations are typically those where infectious diseases are most likely to emerge. These countries are without the money needed to diminish risks.

Perrings would like to see greater cooperation among the international community.

“The management of infectious diseases of animals and plants, like the management of infectious diseases of people, is now a global problem that requires global solutions,” Perrings wrote in his recently published paper.


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