Two new wildlife health-reporting tools, the Wildlife Health Event Reporter and Outbreaks Near Me, have been launched so the public can report sick or dead wild animals.
The inputted information could lead to the detection and containment of wildlife disease outbreaks that may pose a health risk to people, according to researchers in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which helped create the Wildlife Health Event Reporter with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center.
Ultimately, though, the tools are designed to advance the One Health Initiative, a worldwide movement to expand interdisciplinary collaborations and communications in all aspects of health care for humans, animals and the environment. The initiative is supported by more than 535 veterinarians, scientists and physicians and by groups such as the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture, among others.
The Wildlife Health Event Reporter, or WHER, allows anyone in the world with an Internet connection to report sightings of sick or dead wildlife at www.wher.org. The reports can be viewed on the website or people can subscribe to an RSS feed to receive new reports via e-mail.
“Avian influenza, SARS, West Nile virus and rabies are just a few of the rogue’s gallery of human diseases in which wildlife play a role,” said Joshua Dein, a scientist with the USGS. “Seventy-five percent of recent emerging infectious diseases in humans began as animal infections, and most of these have involved wildlife.
“If these tools had been available 10 years ago, we might have had an earlier identification of West Nile virus by people reporting that they were seeing dead cows in their backyards. We don’t know what the next emerging disease outbreak will be, but given recent history, it will likely be preceded by wildlife health events.”
Dein noted that the WHER is experimental and will require high participation rates over a considerable period of time to provide useful data.
The other new tool has been incorporated into HealthMap.org’s mobile phone application, Outbreaks Near Me. The app can now accept and relay wildlife health reports to the WHER site. It will also continue to accept reports of human illness.
Outbreaks Near Me was created by Children’s Hospital Boston researchers and is available by clicking here.
“These tools are the first with the capacity to accept wildlife health reports from anywhere on Earth and deliver wildlife disease information to the wildlife and medical communities,” said Lewis Gilbert, associate director of the Nelson Institute. “We hope that they will help the public act as an army of observers looking for signs of new or emerging diseases at both the national and international level.”