Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs) might pose a threat to India, according to a study published in the journal Nature.
Of special concern are zoonoses (diseases that travel from animals to humans) such as bird flu, incidences of which have risen worldwide, the findings warn.
Researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the US-based University of Georgia and Columbia University's Earth Institute analysed 335 incidents of previous disease emergence, beginning from 1940, and determined that zoonoses are the current and most important threat in causing new diseases to emerge.
And most of these, including SARS and the Ebola virus, originated in mammals.
"India risks new epidemics as the human population expands into natural wilderness, coming into contact with a diverse range of wildlife that harbour unusual diseases," Kate Jones, a biodiversity scientist at the Zoological Society of London and first author of the international study, told Times of India.
She said there was an urgent need to prevent further intrusion into areas of high biodiversity. Other zooneses in India include incidences of Japanese encephalitis in UP, the Surat plague, leptospirosis and more common infections such as rabies and anthrax.
Worldwide, the study found that disease emergences have roughly quadrupled over the past 50 years. Also, more diseases emerged in the 1980s than any other decade likely due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which led to other new diseases in immune-compromised victims. In the 1990s, as per their report, insect-transmitted diseases saw a peak, possibly in reaction to rapid climate changes that started taking hold then.
The team also prepared a detailed map highlighting the world's hotspots for emerging infectious diseases. Besides India, China and sub-Saharan Africa are the regions where there is increasing likelihood of EIDs. According to the researchers, about 20% of known emergences are multi-drug-resistant strains of previously known pathogens like tuberculosis.