Risk Prioritization Tool to Identify the Public Health Risks of Wildlife Trade: The Case of Rodents from Latin America

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Abstract

Summary

Wildlife trade (both formal and informal) is a potential driver of disease introduction and emergence. Legislative proposals aim to prevent these risks by banning wildlife imports, and creating ‘white lists’ of species that are cleared for importation. These approaches pose economic harm to the pet industry, and place substantial burden on importers and/or federal agencies to provide proof of low risk for importation of individual species. As a feasibility study, a risk prioritization tool was developed to rank the pathogens found in rodent species imported from Latin America into the United States with the highest risk of zoonotic consequence in the United States. Four formally traded species and 16 zoonotic pathogens were identified. Risk scores were based on the likelihood of pathogen release and human exposure, and the severity of the disease (consequences). Based on the methodology applied, three pathogens (Mycobacterium microti, Giardia spp. and Francisella tularensis) in one species (Cavia porcellus) were ranked as highest concern. The goal of this study was to present a methodological approach by which preliminary management resources can be allocated to the identified high-concern pathogen–species combinations when warranted. This tool can be expanded to other taxa and geographic locations to inform policy surrounding the wildlife trade.

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