Strengthening the wildlife-livestock-human interface

The OIE and the CIC reinforce their efforts to collaborate on animal health as it relates to the wildlife-livestock-human interface.

Last month, the Director General of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), Dr. Bernard Vallat, and the President of the Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC), Mr. Bernard Lozé, signed an agreement between their two institutions to renovate and strengthen their common objectives and activities to cooperate on animal health issues, particularly at the animal, human and environment interface.

On average, five new human infectious diseases appear every year, three of them coming from animals. For example, African swine fever (ASF), brucellosis or tuberculosis are well-known diseases that affect wildlife and can spread to domestic animals. They also can spread to humans, with 60 percent of these diseases being zoonotic. In this regard, the professionals of the aquatic and terrestrial protected areas, hunters and fishermen are important sentinels to protect animal and human health.

Leaders of the two organizations believe this essential function for health, environment and biodiversity needs to be strengthened and better organized at global, national and local levels. In this context, the agreement signed in early December aims to acknowledge the work already undertaken and to stimulate the implementation of new activities.

The cooperation between the two groups started in 2011, with a goal of enhancing the capacity of countries in early detection, official notification, and response to animal diseases. This goal included those diseases that are transmissible to humans (zoonosis), especially in wild animals, thereby contributing to biodiversity conservation as well as animal and human health.

Hunting wild boars is popular in Europe, so hunters play a valuable role in early detection of disease. Wild boars can serve as a reservoir for a number of diseases, including foot and mouth disease, pseudorabies, classical swine fever, ASF and brucellosis. These diseases can have a critical impact on the domestic swine sector and result in heavy production losses due to high mortality and slaughter for disease control purposes. Also, outbreaks of economically significant disease in domestic pigs often lead to the establishment of trade bans between partners.

The OIE and CIC work together to improve communication among countries and between national veterinary services and national hunting and fishing associations. These actions are implemented by promoting the networks of professional experts on diagnostic, epidemiology and control of wildlife diseases, by signing cooperation agreements between these wildlife professionals and national veterinary services, and by developing operational guidelines and capacity-building activities with the support of the global networks of the OIE regional offices, reference laboratories and collaborating centers for prevention and control of wildlife diseases.

According to Dr. Claire Andreasen, with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University, Ames, the current detection system for animal diseases requires significant coordination between veterinarians; veterinary medical laboratories; and state, federal, and international agencies, as well as associated private sector industries.

He says, "Veterinary clinical pathologists in clinical and governmental laboratories often have responsibilities and expertise in one or more laboratory disciplines involved in diagnosing zoonotic and/or emerging diseases and diseases exotic to the United States that are important to animal and human health and the nation's food supply. The knowledge and roles of all veterinary laboratory professionals are vital to detect, monitor, and confirm diseases and conditions that affect animal and human health and the nation's animal food supply."

The recent agreement highlights the ongoing successful collaboration and emphasizes the implementation of a training program for hunters in order to facilitate their contribution to early detection, reporting and management of diseases affecting wildlife using a "training the trainers" mechanism.

The agreement also takes into account the rapid spread of ASF disease through parts of the European continent. Throughout this project, the CIC, with the support of the OIE, will work on the creation of communication tools on ASF and its detection to be distributed to hunting associations throughout the Eastern countries of the EU in their national language, as well as work on the establishment of a Training Center for Wildlife Health, which will have a sustainable foundation for the future and will receive support from private and public sponsors, such as the European Union.