WHO/UK meeting shows how better-linked veterinary and human health control measures will bring benefits to both sectors
Veterinary measures to protect livestock and other animals, and human health action for the prevention of the transmission of animal-borne diseases, are too often undertaken in isolation of one another. A consultation sponsored by the Animal Health Programme of the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) at the World Health Organization (WHO) on 20-21 September showed the dual benefits to be gained by both animal and human health sectors by investing in the integrated and coordinated control of these diseases.
The meeting saw how, with more effective measures, we have the chance to simultaneously save lives and secure livelihoods. Effective control of zoonotic diseases would mean a decreased disease burden, poverty reduction and increased food supply for large numbers of the rural poor worldwide, thereby contributing a substantial step towards achieving the Millennium Goals (MDGs).
Cost-effective control measures already exist for several neglected zoonotic diseases such as rabies and brucellosis. More integrated interventions can be packaged through these existing structures.
In certain cases, with the right programmes and adequate funding, this could lead to regional or even global control or elimination of individual diseases such as dog rabies and echinococcosis in North Africa or brucellosis and echinococcosis in Northern China.
The meeting recommended that possible next steps to achieve an integrated veterinary-human health approach should include, for example:
- maintain/establish/adapt local surveillance systems for each of the priority zoonoses present in the area and promote the integration of diagnosis;
- develop integrated ‘control packages’ for animal hosts of zoonoses that will address several disease/health problems;
- develop local level registration and reporting systems for zoonotic diseases containing both veterinary and medical data.