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Wildlife as reservoirs of zoonotic diseases in the UK
  1. Vic Simpson

    Vic Simpson graduated from Bristol in 1964, and spent five years in mixed practice in the UK, two years in Kenya as a district veterinary officer and four years in Botswana as a senior veterinary research officer. On returning to the UK, he joined the Veterinary Investigation Service (later the Veterinary Laboratories Agency), working at the Polwhele laboratory near Truro for over 21 years. He retired in 2001 and set up the Wildlife Veterinary Investigation Centre, and continues to study diseases of free‐living British wildlife. He holds a diploma in tropical veterinary medicine from the University of Edinburgh.


MANY more infectious diseases of humans can be acquired from animals, particularly wild animals, than from other humans. Despite this, the role of wildlife as reservoirs of disease has, until recently, been largely ignored by disease surveillance programmes in the UK. With the emergence of major diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus in China, West Nile virus in North America and, more recently, the H5N1 strain of avian influenza virus in the Far East, there has been a marked change in attitude. These diseases may affect humans but, in each case, the principal reservoir of infection has been wild animals. As social and economic conditions change worldwide, more, often novel, zoonotic diseases are emerging. Some of these have already reached the UK and it is inevitable that more will appear in the coming years. This article reviews some of the wildlife zoonoses already known to be present in the UK.

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