Frontlines | Standing Guard--Inside the Zoo

Erica P. Johnson

With monkeypox a reality in the United States and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) perhaps only several sneezes away, it makes sense to use zoo animals, which are checked regularly for health problems, as sentinels to monitor public health threats from zoonotic (animal to human) organisms.

After birds were found dead from West Nile virus (WNV) in New York zoos in 1999, the Zoo Network was established to monitor zoo animals for WNV infection. Network founders included veterinary pathologist Tracey McNamara, veterinary epidemiologist Dominic Travis from Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, scientists from Cornell University, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now in its second year, the network has 130 zoo members, and although it has not been the first to identify West Nile in an area, it has confirmed the virus' presence.

As summer progresses, Travis says it's important...

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