Vallat: Action must be taken against animal pathogens

Bernard Vallat, the director general of the World Organization for Animal Health, called for action last week against the threat of animal pathogens at a meeting held by the Biological Weapons Convention.

Animals pathogens can lead to major repercussions for public health, social stability and the economy because 60 percent of human infectious diseases come from animals and animal diseases can result in agricultural losses. Many agents that can be used for bioweapons are animal pathogens.

The OIE said that the most effective defense against animal disease outbreaks is a combination of early detection, rapid response and effective surveillance for animal diseases in compliance with OIE international standards.

"The best way to protect the entire world from rising bio-threats linked with animal pathogens is to ensure that all national veterinary services comply with OIE international standards on quality," Vallat said. "This must be a basis for bio risk management policies."

The quality of surveillance and response varies from country to country when it comes to animal diseases. Infectious animal diseases such as mad cow disease and Ebola could rapidly spread at the global level if they are not eliminated at their primary source.

"It is a shared responsibility of governments to use all means available and apply existing recommendations that we give to prevent and control animal diseases," Vallat said. "This will reduce the significant risks that these pathogens present. All available channels for convincing all decision makers should be used in that objective."