Sarah Mawerere, August 2020
Conservationists and tour operators in Uganda have raised concerns over the negative impact COVID-19 is having on their industries and are questioning how other zoonotic disease outbreaks could affect them in the future.
Uganda’s tourism service sector is a major foreign exchange earner, contributing about US$1.4 billion to the country’s economy annually. But it is threatened by new and re-emerging zoonotic diseases — those transmitted from animals to humans — such as Marburg, Scabies, Ebola and, now, the novel COVID-19, say researchers.
Those diseases are affecting wild animals, communities surrounding wildlife protected areas and tourists, said Dr. Gladys Kalema Zikusoka, executive director of Conservation Through Public Health, an international organization working in the conservation areas of Uganda, parts of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Senior Public Health Veterinary Officer at Uganda’s Ministry of Health, Dr. David Muwanguzi, explained that many of these zoonotic diseases have re-emerged, while others are completely new.
Although COVID-19 is a new disease, other types of coronaviruses have been found in animals like domestic cats and tigers, said Dr. Muwanguzi.
Dr. Patrick Atimnedi, senior manager of veterinary services at the Uganda Wildlife Authority, called upon tourists to observe guidelines, such as avoiding close contact with wildlife and maintaining hygiene and sanitation, to prevent the transmission of zoonotic diseases in the future.
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Banner image: Ankole longhorn cow, Uganda / Credit: Fredrick Mugira