Last week, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the International Council for Game & Wildlife Conservation (CIC) held a joint international meeting on early detection and prevention of African swine fever (ASF) and other animal health issues at the wildlife/livestock/human interface.
ASF outbreaks have recently been found in wild boar and domesticated swine in Latvia and northwestern Russia, as well as continuing outbreaks in the Caucasus region of Europe.
OIE noted that 60% of pathogens that affect people are of animal origin; this is also the case for three-quarters of emerging infectious diseases appearing for the first time. On average, a new disease appears every year, most of the time in wild animals, that can affect people.
In this regard, the professionals of the aquatic and terrestrial protected areas — hunters and fishermen — are important sentinels of the terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, OIE and CIC said. However, this essential function for health, environment and biodiversity is still poorly organized and formalized in the world. Detection of emerging or re-emerging diseases in wildlife is always problematic.
The development of an effective surveillance requires a collective awareness of the importance of their role, a well-structured organization, including a formal communication with health authorities, veterinary and environmental services and more ambitious training programs. This is particularly relevant for animal diseases, such as ASF.
OIE director general Dr. Bernard Vallet noted that "OIE and CIC are working together to develop and promote these concepts in order to better mobilize stakeholders and strengthen alliances between the authorities and organizations of hunters, fishermen and professionals of aquatic and terrestrial protected areas."
In 2011, OIE and CIC signed a cooperation agreement to strength this collaboration with a view to enhancing the capacity of countries in early detection, official notification and response to animal diseases, including those transmissible to humans (zoonoses), especially in wild animals, thereby contributing to biodiversity conservation, as well as animal and human health.
They also cooperate by improving communication among countries and between national veterinary services and national hunting and fishing associations through the promotion of the networks of professional experts on epidemiology and control of wildlife diseases, working out cooperation agreement with veterinary services, operational guidelines and capacity building with the support of the global networks of the OIE regional offices, reference laboratories and collaborating centers for control of wildlife diseases.