Study looks at risk of global animal infections

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Feb 21, 2005
by WLJ
A new study by an international task force, "Global Risks of Infectious Animal Diseases," discusses the severe economic, social and political impacts of disease outbreaks and outlines national and international monitoring, surveillance and response practices.
The comprehensive study, issued by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, was written and evaluated by the task force of 13 authors and four reviewers from France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. The paper brings together the expertise and experience of scientists and researchers on the front lines of this growing worldwide concern.
It includes a historical review of the most prevalent of these diseases, an outline of the diverse ways they enter a country, an evaluation of contemporary practices that exacerbate disease spread and an overview of the significant impacts-now and in the future-that such diseases have on communities throughout the world.
"Animal diseases will continue to affect food supplies, trade and commerce, and human health and well-being in every part of the world," said Colorado State University professor Mo Salman, co-chairman of the task force that released the study and director of Colorado State's Animal Population Health Institute. "Recent outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, West Nile virus, foot-and-mouth disease in swine and avian influenza have made headlines and are of concern not only for significant economic costs but for the potential to 'cross-over' to humans."
Specific topics addressed in the paper include:
• Background of the global threat of infectious diseases.
• Patterns for animal diseases and their control programs.
• Factors affecting the emergence or spread of livestock diseases.
• Impact of animal diseases on human health.
• National and international economic impacts of animal diseases.
• National and international impacts of animal diseases at the industry level.
• National and international impacts of animal diseases on social and political issues.
• National and international monitoring, surveillance and response.
• Conclusions and recommendations.
"The recent devastating outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, Newcastle disease and highly pathogenic avian influenza demonstrate the global risks of foreign animal and emerging diseases," said Jim Pearson, task force co-chair and international consultant. "These outbreaks have had severe economic, social and political impacts."
Upon discovery of a disease outbreak, the social and political impacts can outgrow the technical and scientific considerations. Consequently, the need for effective risk communication to minimize unwarranted anxiety concerning animal disease crises becomes an important consideration. The threats of foreign animal disease, emerging diseases, new diseases transmitted naturally from animals to humans (zoonoses) and bioterrorism or agroterrorism have connected an uninformed public with the impact of animal diseases.
The ability of animal agriculture to counter contemporary threats of animal diseases is more complex and challenging now than in the past, creating an even greater vulnerability for animal agriculture and requiring awareness of and fluency in current agricultural issues, including:
• the shift from independence to interdependence;
• the need for global awareness and actions;
• the confluence of the worlds of animal and public health;
• the demand for greater public participation in decision making;
• the formation of new strategic partners and alliances;
• interrelated impacts on the environment and ecosystems;
• a need for a new sensitivity to respond to animal diseases and especially to the people involved
and impacted in their control; and
• the mandate to develop skills and competencies in politics, media interactions and community engagement.
The full text of the paper, "Global Risks of Infectious Animal Diseases" (Issue Paper No. 28) may be accessed on the CAST Web site at www.cast-science.org, along with many of CAST's other scientific publications, and is available in hardcopy for $5, which includes shipping, by contacting the CAST office at 515-292-2125.
CAST is an international consortium of 36 scientific and professional societies. It assembles, interprets and communicates credible science-based information regionally, nationally and internationally on food, fiber, agricultural, natural resource and related societal and environmental issues to its stakeholders-legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private sector and the public. — WLJ
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