December 8th, 2008
01:54 PM ET

Tracking deadly viruses spread from animals to humans

Program Note: CNN’s award-winning Planet in Peril returns this year to examine the conflict between growing populations and natural resources. Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Lisa Ling travel to the front lines of this worldwide battle.
Watch Planet In Peril: Battle Lines Thursday 9p ET

We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/WORLD/africa/12/08/pip.zoonotics/art.monkeypox.cnn.jpg caption="Coy contracted monkeypox through contact with bush meat. She'll be quarantined for weeks - there's no cure."]

Anderson Cooper

The animals are gone.

Deep in a remote region of Cameroon, we are following two hunters looking for bush meat - forest animals they can kill to feed their families. They've spent hours in the forest already, but all the traps they've set are empty. They will have to push deeper into the forest and they may be hunting for days.

Last year, rising food prices touched off riots around the world, killing dozens of people. Unable to afford basic supplies, communities in Central Africa are increasingly turning to the forests for food. In doing so, hunters expose themselves to hidden dangers – microscopic pathogens living in the blood of forest animals.

Most of the viruses are harmless, but some are potentially deadly when passed to humans. Scientists point out there's nothing new about these viruses. What is new is the frequency of people's contact with them and how easily they can now be spread around the world.

World-renowned epidemiologist Dr. Nathan Wolfe is following the hunters.


Filed under: Anderson Cooper • Planet in Peril
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Michelle Fischer- Lafayette IN


    WOW! Can you believe it, PIP IS HERE!!!!!! Can't wait to travel with you, Sanjay and Lisa! Thank you 4 an inspiring documentary last year and this one too! GREAT WORK! Loved CNN HEREOS this year 2!

    YOU"RE the BEST Anderson!!!!!
    Have a good show tonight!

    360 Fan,
    Michelle (-:

    December 8, 2008 at 9:50 pm |
  2. Megan Dresslar (Shoreline, Wa)

    Hellooo Anderson......
    Welcome back Anderson!!! Oh yes! I have heard that is very hard for people and animals have bad virus...... ( I couldn't have contact people like virus) You know, I felt that was so awful disease virus will become sick. Virus are so dangerous disease right now..... there is no cure for people or animals. I love your program Planet in Planet and blog..... I am so exciting forward watch PIP on Thursday night! I can't wait see you, Sanjay, and Lisa!!!! That is my favorite program PIP 1 and 2! It is so awesome Dr. Wolfe going tell the viewers and me...... I will see you on program and Live blog at 10pm/7pm! I hope you give me more information about "PIP" tonight!
    See you soon! Take care Anderson...... hugs!!!!!

    December 8, 2008 at 9:29 pm |
  3. Ratna, New York, NY

    Hi Anderson,

    Great! You have pointed out that a pandemie can have its origin in places of war and rebellion where people strive for survival and the exposure to pathogens. There are two paths for the spread of HIV: the origin and then in the constant virus mutation to resist drug treatment. In the West, we are more likely to be exposed to a mutation of the HIV (superbug) that has build a resistance against treatment.

    Not to nag again about this, but financial support of first level of prevention is denied to the NGO's in Africa (by Bush administration), which is really to educate the population about the path of infection and exposure and allow abortion of infected zygotes.

    Did you know that once (you think that ) you have been exposed to the virus, there is a still a medication called PEP to prevent HIV-virus incubation within 24 hours – but mandatory HIV testing is still required after that every 6 months. PEP can be found in the emergency clinic.

    People who tested positive, can still take meds to reduce the virus count and are still able to live a life to the fullest extend. There are still ways have healthy children.

    December 8, 2008 at 8:14 pm |
  4. Anna, HK

    This is really scary... it's how SARs virus started....from animals to humans...

    December 8, 2008 at 7:36 pm |
  5. Maria

    Happy evening Anderson,
    I think Dr. Wolfe is doing remarkable job to trace the spread of Monkeypox virus. Prevention is the best measure to cure; and Identifying vaccine to stop the spread of the disease is crucial step to encounter the disease. Thanks for the report and thanks for taking the risk to explore the African jungles.
    Have a good one.

    December 8, 2008 at 6:57 pm |
  6. Rikki, Fargo, ND

    Hey Anderson,

    It is good to here from you today! I am very much looking forward to Planet in Peril on Thursday. It is always very humbling to learn these things. We are so blessed here and we take so much for granted. I am always appalled at the fact that with the money that Americans spend on Ice Cream each year we could solve the world hunger problem. We need to constantly be reminded to always be thankful! I just finished your book and it had the same humbling effect on me...it was absolutely and amazing book...the best I've read in a really long time!

    December 8, 2008 at 6:48 pm |
  7. Kathy, Chicago

    I have to agree with Cindy, also, AC. Shouldn't we be teaching people how to raise domestic animals for food and trying to give them seeds to grow their own crops. Do the militants interfere with aid and technology? We really need to work on stabilizing governments so that they will reach out to their people.

    December 8, 2008 at 6:29 pm |
  8. Tammy, Berwick. LA

    Knowing the history of these diseases is great, especially if that information leads to better prevention, treatments, and an eventual cure. My doctoral research was in HIV and STD prevention, and it's still a topic near and dear to me because of all the personal losses to HIV over the years. I think watching Nathan Wolfe in action has to be one of the coolest things. I look forward to what PIP2 will bring in terms of information. More importantly, I hope that we as humans realize that information must be acted upon in a manner beneficial to everyone. We are so interconnected. And stories like this one above prove that all too well.

    December 8, 2008 at 6:25 pm |
  9. Brandi - bottom of the boot

    I can't wait to see the show! I have been waiting and waiting. Two questions...Anderson, are you a germophobe? and if you weren't before filming this, are you now? lol

    Cindy, I think it is very important to point out that while supplying an alternative food source is very important, it does nothing to change the fact that these people live with or near the jungle animals and many of these unknown (and known) viruses are not necessarily spread through slaughtering or eating. The people who live in these areas have other contact with these animals as well as their excrement. Water sources get contaminated and simply taking a walk in the jungle can bring something back to the villages. There are many factors that are impossible to eliminate. Prevention is the key, the virulence of these diseases are unknown. Unfortunately, there will always be a new virus out there somewhere plotting its next mutation and prevention will only go so far.

    December 8, 2008 at 6:18 pm |
  10. Annie Kate

    The scariest thing about this is how easily diseases can be spread around the world. More emphasis needs to be put on containment of these diseases before they become a pandemic, wiping out thousands if not millions of people. One person incubating a disease from bushmeat can travel by air to anyplace on the globe, coming into contact with others on the airplane and in the airport. If the disease is able to spread by air, or just the person coughing or sneezing, think of the number of people infected on just one trip; then these people go to stores, social gatherings, and home to infect their family and friends; all these people go to school and work and infect more people. The disease spreads exponentially. Its a scary to imagine how quickly a disease could spread and how many people it could infect. Hopefully scientists like Dr. Wolfe can not only find out what the diseases are and how to cure them but also how to contain them as well.

    Looking forward to PIP this year.

    December 8, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  11. Jennifer

    That's really interesting! Thanks for bringing to everyone's attention!

    December 8, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  12. Karen

    Hey Anderson,

    Good to hear from you.

    Africa needs to get to the point where they don't have to hunt/eat bush meat – who wants to eat a rat!

    But even if they do someday have grocery stores there will still be those rare people that love to hunt for bush meat – like those people that don't take showers even though they can – they would rather stink.

    I don't want to catch monkeypox – good thing for the grant.

    Happy Holiday.


    December 8, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  13. Paula, Colorado

    Hi. It's great to see your writing this afternoon. Your report on the origin of deadly viruses calls attention to the on-going problem of poverty and hunger in the world–and its consequences.
    The varied stories for Planet In Peril this year are significant and fascinating. I'm looking forward to seeing the completed program.

    December 8, 2008 at 4:16 pm |
  14. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    @ Cindy....... once again I agree 100% with you! Its the humane thing to do.

    December 8, 2008 at 4:05 pm |
  15. pati mc., camp hill, pa

    Good Afternoon Anderson,

    Dr. Nathan Wolfe's reserach is not ony fascinating, but critical to eliminating pandemics around the world. Having a close friend who is an epidemiologist, I have been invovled in many intersting discussions on this very matter. Great to see you guys taking this issue to the fore and giving it the exposure that it deserves.

    Thanks Anderson and crew. Axiously await the program on Thursday. Best to you.

    December 8, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  16. Carol B., Virginia

    Couldn't Dr. Wolfe work with, or make a referral to our government (or some government) send them aid for healthier food and/or food drops? It's sad the people don't have much of a choice. Also, this actually could have ramifications for our country and other countries because of anyone in transit that is ill. Some parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children due to the thimerosal controversy or religious grounds. It's a perfect storm waiting to happen.

    December 8, 2008 at 3:45 pm |
  17. Diane N.

    I simply cannot understand why this is happening in this day and age. With the millions and billions of dollars going to a bunch of bs and these people have to starve. Where is the moneys going that gets donated to all of the causes, what is the UN doing with moneys given to them for programs, where the hell is all the money going????

    December 8, 2008 at 3:27 pm |
  18. Martina Ilstad Germany

    Hey Anderson
    Nice you are back!I think you did and you do a verry good job,take the risk,go to pleaces on our planet,they are dangers,but verry interristing to knew about it .I am so sorry for the people they must life in this area,you can leave this pleaces,after a while,but they have to life there. So thank you for your way,threy to tell us about the forgetten pleaces on earth!

    December 8, 2008 at 3:10 pm |
  19. Pamina

    It is scary that the origins are unknown for diseases and that they are so easily spread given large numbers of people in close quarters. So much could be figured out if we just put money into research. I will be interested in seeing your whole report on Thursday.

    December 8, 2008 at 3:07 pm |
  20. Jennifer - Michigan

    Hi Anderson,
    I've been looking forward to Thursday night's program. This report really does affect everyone around the world. Also, it makes us all very aware of how lucky we are here in the US – the abundance of vegetables and fresh meat available to us at local grocery stores. The lives the people are living in the forest is hard to comprehend – the parasites and pathogens that they are exposed to is so very scary, but it seems they have little choice. Makes me very appreciative of everything we have here. Hey, thanks for everything you're doing – you are bringing important issues to light. We appreciate all you do! Hope you have a good day today.

    December 8, 2008 at 2:52 pm |
  21. Don, WA

    The jungle forests especially seem to give and take. It is a fascinating study. The deepest forests probably contain the biological raw material to cure most if not all disease – and at the same time contain the threat of unknown disease. The forest is the ultimate laboratory – filled with possibilities – and like all great laboratories it must be treated with knowledge, respect and care.

    December 8, 2008 at 2:47 pm |
  22. Lilibeth

    Hi Anderson, great to hear from you again. In a way, we can’t entirely blame the hunters if they aren’t concerned about viruses because feeding their families is first and foremost on their minds. When the stomach is empty, the priority is survival at any cost. I like the work that Nathan Wolfe is doing, but I also hope that the world at large will help Cameroon and other places find alternative sources of food so they don’t have to hunt for bush meat. In this time of global financial crisis, I worry that people are less inclined to help poor countries like Cameroon because they’re more concerned about their own survival. I hope that Thursday’s program will show that if everyone cared, we help not only these countries, but also ourselves because as we’ve seen in the first PIP, we are all connected. When a certain species is destroyed, other species follow suit. We see deaths not only in animals but in large populations of humans.

    Take care,
    Edmonds, Washington

    December 8, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  23. anne,nfld.canada


    Although these people have no other choice it seems,but to kill these animals to take care of their families,they have NO idea the possible consequences of doing so.I guess they are only thinking of surviving.

    By taking these animals for food,they are perhaps contaminating and infecting so many,without even realizing it,and it would not take much for it to get out of hand and spread.

    Along with the illegal trafficking of exotic animals who could possibly be infected as well,who knows WHERE these infections and diseases could be sent to?

    They could end up anywhere,and god forbid the consequences,of the 'unknowns' coming our way.For if scientists or doctors DO NOT KNOW what these animals may actually be carrying,how can they possibly know how or what to treat?

    Planet In Peril Battle Lines will be an interesting examination of this and much more.Thank you to the team for bringing us these stories,and shedding light on these potentially deadly issues.

    It is great to see you here on the blog again,Anderson.I look foward to the PIP broadcast Thursday night.
    Take care.

    December 8, 2008 at 2:19 pm |
  24. Cindy

    Like I said in an earlier post I think that the world as a whole needs to get together with their money and technology and help these third world countries out. In giving them better food, water and ways to survive we would be cutting out their need to rely on the jungle animals that carry these deadly diseases. We shouldn't wait on the epidemics to occur before we do anything. We need to be preventing it not trying to cure it.


    December 8, 2008 at 2:09 pm |