Animal disease monitoring is critical for human health, says FAO

By Georgi Gyton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Animal health Medicine Epidemiology Livestock

FAO says sustained support for monitoring systems is vital
FAO says sustained support for monitoring systems is vital
Health and agriculture ministers were told that monitoring animal disease plays a critical role in preventing human disease threats, by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), at a meeting in Indonesia yesterday (20 August).

The Global Health Security Agenda meeting in Jakarta was attended by human and animal heath authorities, as well as exports from across the world, with discussions held on how to collaborate in order to strengthen human health systems.

The FAO said it was pushing for sustained support for monitoring systems, claiming that animal disease was the "weak link"​ in terms of public health protection.

Juan Lubroth, chief veterinary officer at the FAO, said: "Animal health remains one the weakest links in terms of how the world deals with disease risks."

He said the current situation with Ebola in West Africa was a "tragic reminder"​ of the need for additional support for public health systems in the developing world, as well as the importance of the ability to monitor and respond to animal health diseases.

The outbreak is thought to have started when the virus crossed over from infected wildlife into the human population, with authorities in Africa keen to get the message across to communities that bushmeat should be avoided in the wake of this outbreak.

Lubroth also referred to other recent outbreaks of diseases affecting humans, which are believed to have started in animals, such as avian influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

He added: "Zoonotic diseases that can make the jump from animals to humans are a real concern, but there is much that we can do before the jump occurs and outbreaks take place, causing loss of life and disrupting fragile livelihoods.

"To be more resilient in the face of such risks, countries need the resources to be able to better understand where disease is coming from and to prevent it from ever reaching people in the first place. By understanding animal health threats, we have the potential to be ahead of the curve and help prevent human tragedies from happening."

The FAO and its partners are advocating the ‘One Health’ approach, which looks at the links between various factors, including environmental, animal health and human health.

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