Animals play a key role in preventing a pandemic. We must strengthen their protection – global problems

  • Opinion Karel du Marchi SarvaasBrussels)
  • Inter Press Service

In fact, countries have already adopted first steps to amend the International Health Regulations that govern reporting and national responses to emerging pandemics that subsequently proved untenable during the initial COVID-19 outbreak.

However, as countries meet to negotiate a working draft of a pandemic treaty in August, the time to fully codify this knowledge becomes increasingly important if we are to prevent future outbreaks of zoonotic diseases. The recent outbreak of monkeypox shows that the world cannot afford to delay building its defenses against emerging diseases.

At the same time, new vector-borne threats to human or animal health are emerging around the world, especially as climate change creates new opportunities for destructive outbreaks in previously less affected regions of the world.

Clearly, preventing the next pandemic is not an easy task. This is why a One Health approach that recognizes the interconnectedness of environmental, human and animal health gives us the best chance of strengthening global defenses against emerging diseases that are estimated to be 70 percent come from wild animals. Clearly, the One Health approach must be the backbone of global efforts to prevent the next pandemic.

Above all, countries should focus their efforts on establishing a new One Health preparedness unit that will strengthen and consolidate international efforts to prepare for new disease outbreaks. Currently, national disease detection and surveillance programs are too often overstretched and under-resourced, leaving countries – and by extension the global community – unprepared for new threats.

In this context, a new international One Health preparedness arm could bring together existing resources such as the World Animal Health Information System (WAHIS), USAID PREDICT pandemic preparedness project or environmental monitoring by non-profit organizations such as EcoHealth Alliance, in the most efficient and effective way, and with more options for wargame-style planning. In doing so, the international community could better identify potential disease threats and make collective decisions about how best to respond when they occur.

Second, countries could also prioritize new rules and protocols to help products get to market faster to deal with acute and ongoing crises under any draft agreement. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that fast-acting critical health tools such as vaccines can save lives and enable faster responses to emerging pandemics.

Simplifying the regulatory approval process can significantly reduce the time it takes for vaccines to get into the hands of veterinarians, which in turn will increase the resilience of pets and livestock to disease outbreaks.

As it stands, any adjustments to the current stock of animal vaccines require a new safety assessment, meaning it could take months or years to respond to an emerging disease variant. Allowing previous safety assessments to be used to support vaccines for new strains would simplify this process, lowering barriers to animal vaccination and lowering the public health risk in case of zoonoses.

Finally, governments must also agree to fund and adopt new policies that expand global access to animal health prevention as part of any future pandemic treaty. Disease prevention is always better than cure, but the protections needed to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases from animals vary across the world.

Increasing investment in preventive measures, in particular in on-farm biosecurity, as well as in diagnostic technologies that can detect changes in health before serious observable symptoms appear, can not only reduce the frequency but also the severity of disease outbreaks, as has already happened in many developed countries. countries.

In Europe, for example, there has not been a single major zoonotic disease since Q fever over a decade ago, while the UK reduction in salmonellosis outbreaks 87 percent from the 1992 peak due to vaccination of poultry.

The lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic are clear: the world can no longer afford to consider threats to human and animal health, and the environment as a whole, in isolation.

For the world to be fully prepared for the next pandemic, the interconnected principles of the One Health approach must underpin any future pandemic prevention treaty.

UN IPS Bureau

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedSource: Inter Press Service

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