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One Health, travel health, and conservation medicine

This Club EvMed event occurred on November 17th, 2023. Learn more about Club EvMed at

This conversation was led by Dr. Michael Muehlenbein, Professor at Baylor University. Human interactions with nonhuman animals vary tremendously, from daily cultural engagements and food commodities, to pet ownership and tourist encounters. Understanding pathogen exchange (both zoonoses and anthroponoses) among human, wildlife, and livestock populations, and the varying ecological and cultural contexts in which this exchange takes place, is a major challenge. The human desire for physical contact with other species may be partly the result of biophilia, emotionally arousing events (like contact with exotic species) that can lead to further disinhibition, and social media platforms that provide opportunities for exhibitionism. This is particularly the case for travelers who frequently underestimate the contribution they may have to disease transmission to other species, as well as the risk of becoming infected themselves. Tourists in general tend to accept more physical risks when traveling than when at home, often with temporary loss of situational awareness and loss of inhibition with a corresponding relaxed attitude toward safety. This presentation reviews data collected on human-wildlife interactions at six international locations, each with significant human-wildlife overlap. Desires to establish emotional connections with other species, combined with the central role of touch for exploring our environment, necessitate the development of better communication and educational campaigns to minimize risks of emerging infectious diseases.

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