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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