Zoonotic-disease research fights ‘Big 8’

A new report “8 Zoonotic Diseases Shared Between Animals and People of Most Concern in the U.S.” indicates that researchers are tackling diseases that spread between animals and people. Kansas State University researchers are working on six of eight diseases featured in the federal report – zoonotic influenza, salmonellosis, West Nile virus, emerging coronaviruses, rabies and Lyme disease. University researchers also are addressing other zoonotic diseases of worldwide concern – Rift Valley fever, Japanese encephalitis, Zika and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli.

A real-life story of Kansas State University alumni Nancy and Jerry Jaax is featured in the upcoming National Geographic series “The Hot Zone” about the arrival of Ebola to the United States. Kansas State University researchers depend on specially equipped biosafety laboratories where work on zoonotic diseases can be conducted safely, similar to the series. The National Bio and Agro-defense Facility is being built by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security adjacent to Kansas State University’s campus in Manhattan. It will be the nation’s foremost animal-disease facility with biosafety level-4 laboratories.

The new report is a collaboration of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.