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(AP) – Monkeypox and COVID-19 have raised awareness around the world of zoonotic diseases that are passed between animals and human beings.

It’s prompted the Ugandan government to build a laboratory that tracks zoonotic diseases in national parks where many communities live close to a wide variety of wildlife.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control reports more than half of all human infections such as Malaria, Ebola, and SARS are zoonotic in origin. They add three out of every four new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.

As growing populations spill over onto previously undisturbed areas of wildlife, the risk of transmission increases.

“We know that the communities around, in this park especially, do engage in eating wildlife,” described Gloria Akurut, laboratory technician, Uganda Wildlife Authority Zoonotic Lab. “When they find carcasses they will eat them, especially the hippo carcasses. If someone eats a carcass that they don’t know the cause of death, it is a risk to them.”

The newly commissioned Uganda Wildlife Authority Diagnostics and Research Laboratory is equipped to deal with potentially dangerous pathogens.

“The capability of this lab is currently in three forms. One, we can do diagnosis. Two, we can do forensics, that is we are developing a pipeline for forensics, especially for wildlife. And then we do research, and when we do research we do research in bacteria pathogens, protozoan pathogens, we do research in viral pathogens as well,” explained Akurut.

Since opening it doors a few months ago, the laboratory has already started investigations into potential diseases that might pose a threat to global public health.