Neglected tropical diseases

Neglected zoonotic diseases

Definition

WHO defines zoonoses as diseases and infections that are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and humans. A zoonotic agent may be a bacterium, a virus, a fungus or other communicable disease agent. At least 61% of all human pathogens are zoonotic, and have represented 75% of all emerging pathogens during the past decade. Except for the newly emerging zoonoses such as SARS and highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1, the vast majority are not prioritized by health systems at national and international levels and are therefore labelled as neglected.

More detailed information on specific neglected zoonotic diseases (NZDs) is available at
http://www.who.int/zoonoses/diseases/en

Impact

The impact of NZDs on health services and economies is most severe on poor households in developing countries, as most of the populations living in rural areas are still largely dependent on animals for feed, transport and farm work. Populations from urban slums are also affected. Zoonotic diseases are under-diagnosed, particularly among poor people, and this under-diagnosis reflects the limited capacity and coverage of health services. Poor people are least likely to be correctly diagnosed and treated against NZDs.

For some figures on the impact of NZDs

Challenges

NZDs are most prevalent in countries where there a lack of knowledge, political commitment and funding for these diseases prevails. Control strategies that are effective in the western world are not all transferable and applicable in developing countries, as the settings and circumstances are usually very different. Furthermore, for many NZDs, increasing public awareness and education on preventive measures, but most essentially control of the disease through its animal reservoir, is the most cost-effective intervention. Control of the disease makes coordination between veterinary and health services a prerequisite. Since many veterinary and health services are both greatly over-stretched and under-funded, and since these services in all countries do not work efficiently together, zoonoses control in many cases fall between the two sectors.

Way forward

Improving the control and prevention of NZDs requires multidisciplinary, intersectoral and crosscultural efforts by health, agriculture, environment and other sectors of society at the national level. Effective control of zoonoses also needs strong regional and international cooperation and immediate notification of disease occurrence on every level. Hence, WHO and other international organizations, such as FAO and OIE, are working together and promoting intersectoral cooperation for NZD control.

The Control of Neglected Zoonotic Diseases [pdf 1,4mb]
Ref: WHO/SDE/FOS/2006.1

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