Livestock Epidemic

Authored by: Delia Grace , John McDermott

The Routledge Handbook of Hazards and Disaster Risk Reduction

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415590655
eBook ISBN: 9780203844236
Adobe ISBN: 9781136918698

10.4324/9780203844236.ch31

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Abstract

Since the widespread domestication of animals in the Neolithic era, 10,000–15,000 years before the Common Era (CE), human livelihoods have been inextricably linked with the livestock they keep. Domesticated animals must have been among the most valued assets of ancient humans: walking factories that provided food, fertiliser, power, clothing, building materials, tools and utensils, fuel, power and adornments. Inevitably, the innovations of crop cultivation and food storage that allowed people to settle and live in high numbers and densities also increased the number of animals kept, density of livestock population and the intimacy of human–animal interactions. Pathogens responded, undergoing intense genomic change to seize these dramatically expanded opportunities. Epidemics of highly contagious and lethal disease emerged, as livestock and people reached the critical population sizes needed for acute infections to persist. Diseases also jumped species from animal to humans: the lethal gift of livestock.

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