The Director General of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Dr Bernard Vallat called for action against the rising threat that animal pathogens pose to the world’s security at the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Meeting of States Parties.
Accidental or deliberate release of animal pathogens can have disastrous repercussions for public health, economies, and social stability because 60% of human infectious diseases originate from animals (zoonoses) and, infectious diseases of animals also cause huge losses to agriculture. Because of these impacts, most agents that can be used for bioweapons are animal pathogens.
Effective surveillance, early detection and rapid response mechanisms for animal diseases that comply with OIE international standards are the most effective defense against any infectious animal disease outbreak, whether the cause is natural, accidental or intentional. OIE Laboratory Standards for bio risk management will also protect against accidental release of pathogens from laboratories and guard against pathogens falling into the wrong hands.
Dr Vallat stated that the best way to protect the entire world from rising bio-threats linked with animal pathogens was to ensure that all national Veterinary Services complied with OIE international standards on quality. This had to be a basis for bio risk management policies.
Unfortunately today, the quality of surveillance and response mechanisms for animal diseases varies from country to country, and in a globalized world weaknesses in one country pose a threat to all others.
Today’s movements of people, animals and consumer goods enables the rapid global spread of infectious animal diseases: SARS, avian flu, mad cow disease, and Ebola are all examples highlighting the potentially disastrous consequences that animal pathogens can pose if they are not eliminated at their primary source.
Vallat stressed that it was a shared responsibility of governments to use all means available and apply existing recommendations that were given to prevent and control animal diseases. This would reduce the significant risks that these pathogens present.