Zoonoses

Managing public health risks at the human-Animal-environment interface

Piao Suo, of the Hani tribe, feeds his pigs outside his home in the village of Xiao Ke Su in Menglong, Yunnan Province, China. 21 May 2010. The 28 year old contracted malaria from July to August of 2007.
WHO/TDR/Simon Lim

Humans coexist in a complex, interdependent relationship with the companion, production, and wild animals we depend on for our food, livelihoods, and well-being, as well as with the environments we live and work in together.

The interface between humans, animals, and the environments we share can also be a source of diseases impacting public health and the social and economic well-being of the world population. Such diseases, transmissible from animals to humans through direct contact or though food, water, and the environment, are commonly referred to as “zoonoses.”


Zoonoses comprise a large percentage of all newly identified infectious diseases as well as existing infectious diseases. Antimicrobial resistance in human pathogens is another major public health threat which is partly impacted by use of antibiotics in animal husbandry and agriculture.

Cross-sectoral collaboration is key to understanding and managing public health risks at the human-animal-environment interface and improving global health security. WHO works with national governments, academia, non-governmental and philanthropic organisations, and regional and international partners, including with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), to prevent and manage these threats and their public health, social and economic impacts by:

  • Fostering cross-sectoral collaboration at the human-animal-environment interface among the different relevant sectors at international, regional, and national levels.
  • Developing capacity and promoting practical, evidence-based, and cost-effective tools and mechanisms for zoonoses prevention, surveillance and detection, reporting, epidemiological and laboratory investigation, risk assessment, and control, and assisting countries in their implementation.
  • Supporting the development of relevant policies, strategies and sustainable programmes to prevent and reduce risks and manage outbreaks, and by facilitating their implementation.