Europe must maintain disease vigilance, say experts

By Carina Perkins

- Last updated on GMT

Europe must maintain disease vigilance, say experts

Related tags Bovine spongiform encephalopathy Livestock

Europe should not become complacent about the risks of animal- and food-borne diseases, animal health experts have warned.

Speaking at the IFAH-Europe conference in Brussels last week, Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, executive director of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said Europe had made great progress on tackling food safety over the past 10 years. Human cases of salmonella, for example, were cut in half between 2004-2009.

However, she pointed out that 75% of new human diseases over the past 10 years have originated from animals. “The risk to the EU of emerging food-borne disease and pathogens must not be underestimated, Europe must remain vigilant,”​ she said.

David Leaver, professor emeritus at the Royal Agricultural College, warned of the potential economic impact of future animal disease outbreaks, which he said presented a “significant potential cost to Europe from losses in farm productivity to market disruptions and international trade”.

He gave the examples of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, which cost the UK an estimated total of £30bn and the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak across Europe that totalled €92bn. “Animal disease outbreaks have a very significant cost to certain nations,”​ he said.

IFAH-Europe managing director Declan O’Brien told that Europe should be wary of recent outbreaks of bluetongue and the schmallenberg virus, which suggested that animal disease outbreaks “are on the move”​.

“It may be that we are transporting animals more, perhaps we are transporting animal produce more, perhaps it is related to climate change and the ability of vectors, such as mosquitos and midges, to survive and transmit diseases in areas where they haven’t previously been able to do so,”​ he said.

“We believe there will be more diseases [over the next few years]. For that reason we need to have public policies by which we prepare in advance. This means we have vaccine banks ready so we can deploy them quickly and effectively.”

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