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Emerging animal diseases: from science to policy - Favv

Emerging animal diseases: from science to policy - Favv

Introduction Dirk

Introduction Dirk Berkvens Institute for Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium Scientific Committee FASFC, Brussels, Belgium During the past decades, society worldwide was awakened several times by potentially devastating new diseases or by the sudden re-emergence of known diseases. The World Health Organisation keeps on informing us that on average one new human disease per year is ‘discovered’ and that at least half of them are zoonotic in origin. In addition, animal diseases without zoonotic dimension are also spreading at an ever-increasing pace to regions hitherto uninfected. Globalisation of trade in animal products plays a very prominent role in this problem, along with more intensive and faster international travel, human encroachment into virgin habitats because of increasing demands for arable land and pastures, the development of urban and peri-urban animal production and climate change. Whatever the single most important reason in any specific situation, it is obvious that the underlying process for the (re)-emergence of the disease is an anthropogenic one. Strengthening national veterinary services and developing international networks and early-warning systems are priorities when attempting to contain, control or eliminate emerg- ing threats. It is generally accepted now that a rapid, effective response is a prerequisite to a successful intervention and that it is a global responsibility to ensure that there are no weak links in the system. Identification of such links and making efforts to strengthen them must be part of the mission of the various players in the field of international medical and veterinary health and food safety. Quantification of risk, using a holistic approach, is quickly becoming an indispensable tool to assist disease managers to make the right decision when faced with emerging diseases. A solid understanding of the epidemiology and transmission dynamics of the diseases, the ecology of their vectors and the efficacy and availability of control options is crucial in order to arrive at a meaningful assessment of potential risks. The use of generic models, based on both human and veterinary health paradigms, should be encouraged whenever possible and concepts such as “Health for all” and “One World: One Health” should be taken seriously and put into practice. 9

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