Innovation and cooperative approach essential for One Health

Innovation and cooperative approach essential for One Health

IFAH-OHA cooperative approach to further innovation in animal and public health is necessary. Hand-in-hand with consumer acceptance of new technologies, it is also essential to foster a harmonised and predictable regulatory framework in which innovation should be a key focus. With added challenges such as the development of antibiotic resistance or the spread of zoonotic diseases, it is clear that only by working together as one — locally, nationally, and globally — can we hope to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment.

The One Health concept has been operative in animal health innovations for decades, but there is a clear need for further understanding and appreciation for the concept amongst the medical profession and the general public. We are pleased to see increasing collaboration between the WHO, OIE and FAO to identify high priority issues in the One Health arena and IFAH-Europe lends its full support to these efforts. With ever more people working in either the animal or public health sectors adopting a One Health mindset, there is greater opportunity to address challenges occurring at the interface between humans, animals and ecosystems, to facilitate the adoption of new technologies for animal and human disease and to communicate on the contributions of the animal health sector.

Excerpt originally appeared in the International Federation for Animal Health, Europe Annual report 2015. Available at: http://www.ifaheurope.org/annual-report-2015/

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Dr. Kelvin Momanyi

Dr. Kelvin Momanyi

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60,000 Antelope Died in Four Days and No One Knows Why

60,000 Antelope Died in Four Days and No One Knows Why

It started in late May. When geoecologist Steffen Zuther and his colleagues arrived in central Kazakhstan to monitor the calving of one herd of saigas, a critically endangered, steppe-dwelling antelope, veterinarians in the area had already reported dead animals on the ground.

7. 60000 Antelopes died“But since there happened to be die-offs of limited extent during the last years, at first we were not really alarmed,” Zuther, the international coordinator of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative, told Live Science.

But within four days, the entire herd — 60,000 saiga — had died. As veterinarians and conservationists tried to stem the die-off, they also got word of similar population crashes in other herds across Kazakhstan. By early June, the mass dying was over.

Now, the researchers have found clues as to how more than half of the country’s herd, counted at 257,000 as of 2014, died so rapidly. Bacteria clearly played a role in the saigas’ demise. But exactly how these normally harmless microbes could take such a toll is still a mystery, Zuther said.

“The extent of this die-off, and the speed it had, by spreading throughout the whole calving herd and killing all the animals, this has not been observed for any other species,” Zuther said. “It’s really unheard of.”

Saigas, which are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, live in a few herds in Kazakhstan, one small herd in Russia and a herd in Mongolia. The herds congregate with other herds during the cold winters, as well as when they migrate to other parts of Kazakhstan, during the fall and spring. The herds split up to calve their young during the late spring and early summer. The die-off started during the calving period.

Field workers were able to take detailed samples of the saigas’ environment — the rocks the animals walked on and the soil they crossed — as well as the water the animals drank and the vegetation they ate in the months and weeks leading up to the die-off.

The researchers additionally conducted high-quality necropsies of the animals, and even observed the behavior of some of the animals as they died. The females, which cluster together to calve their young, were hit the hardest. They died first, followed by their calves, which were still too young to eat any vegetation. That sequence suggested that whatever was killing off the animals was being transmitted through the mothers’ milk, Zuther said.

Tissue samples revealed that toxins, produced by Pasteurella and possibly Clostridia bacteria, caused extensive bleeding in most of the animals’ organs. But Pasteurella is found normally in the bodies of ruminants like the saigas, and it usually doesn’t cause harm unless the animals have weakened immune systems.

So far, the only possible environmental cause was that there was a cold, hard winter followed by a wet spring, with lots of lush vegetation and standing water on the ground that could enable bacteria to spread more easily, Zuther said. That by itself doesn’t seem so unusual, though, he said.

Another possibility is that such flash crashes are inevitable responses to some natural variations in the environment, he said. Zuther said he and his colleagues plan to continue their search for a cause of the die-off.

This article originally posted on the NBC news website.

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WHO statement on the tenth meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee regarding MERS

WHO statement on the tenth meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee regarding MERS

The tenth meeting of the Emergency Committee (EC) convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR 2005) regarding the Middle East respiratory syndrome 1 was held by teleconference on 2 September 2015, from 1300 to 1620 Central European Summer Time (UTC +2). During the meeting the WHO Secretariat provided an update to the Committee on epidemiological and scientific developments, including recent cases and transmission patterns in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. The Secretariat also provided current risk assessments with regard to these events, and information on control and prevention measures.

The following States Parties provided information on the status of events and assessments of the MERS-CoV situation in their countries: Jordan, KSA, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.

The Secretariat reported on a recent WHO mission to KSA that was conducted on 23 August 2015 because of a hospital-based outbreak of MERS cases. One of the preliminary conclusions was that virus transmission in the emergency room of the most heavily affected hospital resulted in a significant nosocomial outbreak. Despite an established triage system, virus transmission was able to occur because of overcrowded conditions, movement of patients who were infected but did not yet have a diagnosis, and some breakdowns in the application of infection prevention and control (IPC) measures. These key factors facilitated the outbreak.

Members of the EC agreed that the situation still does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). At the same time, they emphasized that they have a heightened sense of concern about the overall MERS situation. Although it has been three years since the emergence of MERS in humans was recognized, the global community remains within the grip of this emerging infectious disease. There is continued virus transmission from camels to humans in some countries and continued instances of human-to-human transmission in health care settings. Nosocomial outbreaks have most often been associated with exposure to persons with unrecognized MERS infection. The major factors contributing to the ongoing situation are insufficient awareness about the urgent dangers posed by this virus, insufficient engagement by all relevant sectors, and insufficient implementation of scalable infection control measures, especially in health care settings such as emergency departments. The Committee recognizes that tremendous efforts have been made and some progress has been achieved in these areas. However, the Committee also notes that the progress is not yet sufficient to control this threat and until this is achieved, individual countries and the global community will remain at significant risk for further outbreaks.

Moreover, the current outbreak is occurring close to the start of the Hajj and many pilgrims will return to countries with weak surveillance and health systems. The recent outbreak in the Republic of Korea demonstrated that when the MERS virus appears in a new setting, there is great potential for widespread transmission and severe disruption to the health system and to society.

The Committee further noted that its advice has not been completely followed. Asymptomatic cases that have tested positive for the virus are not always being reported as required. Timely sharing of detailed information of public health importance, including from research studies conducted in the affected countries, and virological surveillance, remains limited and has fallen short of expectations. Inadequate progress has been made, for example, in understanding how the virus is transmitted from animals to people, and between people, in a variety of settings. The Committee was disappointed at the lack of information from the animal sector.

The Committee felt it important to alert all relevant authorities, especially national public health, animal and agricultural agencies, to the continued and significant public health risks posed by MERS. These sectors must collaborate, among themselves and internationally, and follow the advice that has been issued by WHO.

The Committee advised as follows:

  • Its previous advice remains applicable.
  • National authorities should ensure that all health care facilities have the capacity, knowledge and training to implement and maintain good practices, especially infection prevention and control measures and early identification of cases.
  • Appropriate authorities should collaboratively address deeper systemic issues that are impeding control of MERS, both in animals and humans.
  • National authorities should ensure the rapid and timely sharing of information of public health importance, including epidemiological investigations, viral genetic sequence information and findings from research studies.
  • International collaboration to develop human and animal vaccines and therapeutics should be accelerated.
  • In view of the evidence that camels are the main source of community-acquired infections, public health, animal health and agricultural sectors must improve their collaboration to address the public health risk of MERS.
  • National leadership is essential to ensure a flexible, efficient and well-coordinated whole-of-government response to the challenges posed by MERS.

Based on the Committee’s advice and information currently available, the Director-General accepted the Committee’s assessment. She thanked the Committee for its work.

There is no public health justification for implementing any measures to prevent the spread of MERS through the restriction of travel or trade. Screening at points of entry is considered unnecessary at this time. However, raising awareness about MERS and its symptoms among those travelling to and from affected areas, particularly in light of the Hajj, is strongly advised.

WHO will continue to provide updates to the Committee Members and Advisors. The Emergency Committee will be reconvened should circumstances require.

This article originally appeared on the Media centre section of the WHO website.

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Towards a healthier planet: Veterinary epidemiology research at ILRAD and ILRI, 1987–2014

Towards a healthier planet: Veterinary epidemiology research at ILRAD and ILRI, 1987–2014

ReportThe good health of livestock, and of the humans who tend them, market them, consume their products and benefit from the resources they offer to populations across the world, has been central to our international development agenda for the past decade. It emerges with even stronger emphasis in the sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Understanding health constraints to development, and how these can be reduced or mitigated, demands structured and well-coordinated research that can inform policy and evidence-based practices for disease control and prevention. This is the fundamental principle of epidemiology, whether applied to human or animal diseases.

Veterinary epidemiology was introduced into ILRAD in 1987 to provide more substantive justification for the investments being made into fundamental research on vaccine development for the two African vector-borne diseases—theileriosis (East Coast fever, ECF) and trypanosomiasis—on which ILRAD focused. Under the Epidemiology and Socio-economics Program a small multidisciplinary team set up a series of institutional collaborations to undertake impact assessments of these two diseases in different regions of Africa. The term epidemiology was not completely new to ILRAD, but it had been used in the context of parasite strain variations, not in the context of understanding disease dynamics in different livestock production systems, and the impacts on people who derived their livelihoods from them.

For the next seven years, until the merger of ILRAD and the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA ) in 1995 and the establishment of ILRI, the program focused almost exclusively on the dynamics and impacts of tick and tsetse-borne pathogens of livestock in Africa. In the new institutional environment following the merger, the geographic focus, disease focus, disciplinary makeup and range of tools used by the group broadened substantially, tackling multiple diseases in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and building capacity in epidemiological and economic impact assessment techniques. For a period of 15 years (1987–2002) ILRAD/ILRI’s epidemiology and socio-economic impact assessment capacity was assembled in one
team based at what became known as the ‘Epicentre’, serving a range of institutional and externally commissioned needs; it became increasingly recognized internationally for its focus on animal health issues affecting economic development and poverty reduction. Through a major study of animal health research priorities commissioned by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the team made a substantial contribution to the design of ILRI’s new strategy which emerged in 2002. But ironically the new institutional structure which emerged to serve the new strategy did not include an epidemiology and disease control program, and epidemiological capacity at ILRI over the last decade has become scattered throughout the institute and regions, the emphasis on quantitative epidemiology has decreased, and the focus has moved to new areas such as food safety, zoonoses and emerging diseases. Food safety and zoonoses is now the only one of ILRI’s 10 programs that has epidemiology focus and leadership.

Veterinary epidemiological and economic impact sciences at ILRAD and ILRI have left a valuable legacy of publications in peer-reviewed journals, strategic reports and policy documents, as well as methodologies and approaches which have been applied in virtually all corners of the world. The products of these sciences have also contributed to disease control policies and strategies in different ways, and a vast cadre of epidemiologists trained at ILRAD and ILRI is now serving different institutional needs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin America.

Download the full report from ILRI’s website.

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