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Sentinel Species: Tree swallow at nest box, Holston River, Virginia. (Thomas Chapman)

Animal Sentinels of Human Health

Animals often are the first to come in contact with the microbes, contaminants, and pollutants that can make people sick. Animal symptoms and responses to conditions around them can serve as an early warning system for potential threats to human health.

The canary in the coal mine is a classic example of how animals are sentinels of human health. Caged canaries, being more sensitive than humans to the effects of carbon monoxide and other poisonous gases, saved lives in the early 1900s by alerting miners to the presence of dangerous gas.

Today, earthworms, swallows, bats, other wildlife, and even our pets are all animal sentinels alerting us to disease, allergens, and contaminants in our environment. USGS scientists are designing and monitoring these sentinel systems to help you and public health officials take preventative actions before serious health consequences such as disease outbreaks can occur.


Links to USGS Sentinel Research Projects

More Information

 
Human Health Home
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Topics:
Air, Dust, and Soil contaminants and Pathogens
Drinking Water Contaminants
Consumption of Bioaccumulative Contaminants
Vector Borne and Zoonotic (animal to human) Disease
Contact With Recreational Waters
Animal Sentinels of Human Health

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URL: http://health.usgs.gov/sentinels/index.html
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Page Last Modified: 09-May-2014@09:48