Zoonoses and animal health: man, bird and beast
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CTA. 2006. Zoonoses and animal health: man, bird and beast. Spore 122. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Diseases passed from animals to humans cause untold damage to the lives and livelihoods of people living in ACP countries...
Diseases passed from animals to humans cause untold damage to the lives and livelihoods of people living in ACP countries. Livestock producers need more help installing better animal husbandry, veterinary and public health practices, to contain the threat and make the most of their animal resources. Humans and animals have been living side by side since livestock domestication began nearly 10,000 years ago. But while this symbiosis undoubtedly brings benefits, close contacts between Man and livestock can also cause problems. While animals are a major source of protein, by-products and income for many households, they are also a source of disease, especially when Man and beast live in close proximity, and hygiene and veterinary procedures are inadequate. Most of the world s emerging diseases are of animal origin, and nearly all are zoonoses, the term given, in the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO), to those diseases which are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and man . The highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza, currently sweeping through Asia, Africa and Europe, is perhaps the most dramatic illustration of the potential damage caused by zoonotic diseases. But in many ACP regions, other animal diseases have long taken a heavy toll on humans. To date, scientists have identified more than 200 zoonoses, the effects of which vary widely, from death or disability in humans to lower production rates in animals. The latter scenario, while clearly less tragic, is nevertheless a serious constraint to food security in many ACP countries. A number of zoonotic diseases are characterised by lower outputs of animal products, manure and traction power. Some zoonoses, such as avian influenza and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease, see Spore 94), have an impact on food safety. A secondary but important repercussion is the fear factor on consumers, together with trade barriers, as embargoes are put into force. A deadly virus As avian influenza continued what some say is its inexorable march through the world, health officials warned that local livestock-keeping practices in Africa could increase the risk of the virus mutating to become transmissible between humans. In Africa, as in other ACP regions, households often live in close contact with poultry in their homes and backyards. Once the virus has mutated to become transmittable between humans, there can be no going back, and millions of lives could be lost. There is no cure for the disease and no vaccine so far. At the time of going to press, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Niger Nigeria and Sudan had confirmed the H5N1 avian flu strain, with two deaths confirmed in Egypt, but at an emergency meeting held in March in Gabon, one UN official warned that more countries were affected than had admitted. These are the only countries who dared announce their results, said WHO epidemiologist Andre Ndikuyeze. Unfortunately, others haven't been so brave. Porous borders, a flourishing informal chicken trade and inadequate veterinary services are acknowledged as key reasons for the spread. The poultry is everywhere and yet veterinary services are nowhere, said Dr Bonaventure Mtei, of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). In Nigeria, health workers are spreading the word about the risks, using leaflets, meetings and the media. But not everyone is receptive to the warnings. A major problem facing health and veterinary officials in some ACP countries is that not everyone believes that the threat is real. In several northern states of Nigeria, people are opposing mass culling, claiming it is a western plot. It s nonsense what people are saying about chickens, laughed Alhaja Sikiratu, in Lagos. When I was small, I ate chicken infected with cholera, and nothing happened to me! FAO is urging adequate compensation to encourage early reporting, but Nigerian poultry farmers, who are being paid 1,000 CFA ( 1.50) per bird, complain they only receive funds for culled poultry, not for those which have died from the disease. The economic effects have been quick to make themselves felt, as consumers in both North and South shun poultry and egg products. Trade experts have warned that dumping of poultry on ACP countries from Europe could drastically affect prices, as happened with beef after the BSE crisis. Rapid detection needed In the affected areas, initiatives are under way to halt the spread. Member states of the Economic Community of West African States have set up an observation network for the rapid detection of sick poultry. Out in the field our staff are alerting the public and collecting information , said Dr Mamadou Kané, director of animal health in Mali. In other ACP regions, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is mapping a regional strategy to cope with the threat of H5N1, which, it acknowledges, is bound to reach the region sooner or later. In March, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community launched the Pacific Regional Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Project, to provide animal surveillance and other responses. But while the spotlight focuses on avian flu, there are a whole host of other zoonoses which have a devastating effect on human health and livelihoods. Experts have warned that urgent action is needed to prevent the spread of a particularly virulent form of sleeping sickness transmitted by Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense that has broken out in eastern Uganda. Infected cattle continue to be transported to outlying markets, raising fears of an epidemic. With Africa s pig population more than doubling over the past 30 years, there are concerns over growing incidences of neurocysticercosis, a parasitic disease of the central nervous system transmitted by pigs. Nearly 50,000 people die of the tape worm disease each year, mainly in rural areas with poor pig management practices and inadequate meat inspection and sanitation. and timely intervention Cost-effective control measures already exist for several zoonotic diseases. But they are not always applied as zoonoses often rank low in terms of funding. As long ago as 1992, the International Task Force for Disease Eradication concluded that cysticercosis could be eradicated. Other problems facing ACP countries include difficulties in collecting accurate data. Often, surveillance systems lack uniformity and local staff may accept endemic diseases as the norm or fail to report potential zoonose outbreaks to avoid livestock trading bans. When outbreaks of diseases do occur, ACP countries need technical assistance for diagnosis, vaccination and slaughtering programmes. But preventative help is even more crucial. A recent FAO e-conference claimed that public health emergencies such as avian influenza were failures of prevention . The rise in livestock production seen in much of the South must be accompanied by access to credit, development of infrastructure and animal production and health services. Most important of all, farmers need access to information. FAO has set up four regional networks, offering advice on zoonotic disease, through e-conferences, discussions and newsletters. The International Network for Family Poultry Development encourages higher standards in small-scale poultry production through its electronic newsletter. A project developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency for surveillance of livestock disease in Africa uses ICTs to offer training of trainers, on the Internet and on CDs. Meanwhile, as states neighbouring Nigeria slapped a ban on poutry imports, the country was counting the cost to its poultry industry. Before, we always had a good crowd of customers, complained the owner of a Lagos fried chicken eatery. Look at my restaurant now: it s empty ! FAO and WHO have issued a five-point plan for consumers 1. No birds from flocks with disease should enter the food chain. 2. Do not eat raw poultry parts, including raw blood, or raw eggs. 3. Separate raw meat from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination. 4. Keep clean and wash your hands. 5. Thorough cooking of poultry meat will inactivate the virus. Either ensure that the poultry meat reaches 70°Celsius at the centre of the product ( piping hot) or that the meat is not pink in any part. Egg yolks should not be runny or liquid. Sources: FAO and WHO
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