EDITORIAL: FEASIBILITY OF GLOBAL ANIMAL DISEASE CONTROL STRATEGIES IN ASIA
More than ever, people now realize the impact of animal health and trade on human health and well-being. According to the WHO definition, “health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (1948). Animal health influences every component of this definition: physical (protection from zoonoses and food safety), mental and social (economy and companion animal health).
Building Regional Expertise for the Control of TADs
In 2004, OIE, WHO, and FAO introduced the Global Framework to control Transboundary Animal Diseases (GFTAD) to control emerging infectious diseases. To achieve this, they facilitate regional alliances in different parts of the world. They reach out using existing regional organizations such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). A region will be evaluated for the progress using set indicators. In the process, risk zones for different transboundary diseases are identified in collaboration with respective governments, and periodic reviews are conducted to determine prioritized diseases specific to each region/sub-region.
Strengthening Veterinary Workforce PVSRecognizing the disparities of veterinary education and veterinary practices over the world, the OIE has developed an international standard (set of guidelines) for the countries to improve their overall quality of veterinary services, animal health, and public health management. This is known as the Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS) Pathway. Countries can request OIE to evaluate the national veterinary service and produce feedback on their strengths and weaknesses. The process is participatory, collaborative, and iterative and looks for countries to work on concrete action plans to improve their weaknesses. Through this program, OVSs strengthen their effectiveness to control diseases which leads to increased market opportunities.
Making control of FMD feasible step by step
The FAO introduced the progressive control pathway, endorsed by OIE, to control Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in endemic countries following a risk-based strategic plan. This framework could be applicable to any infectious animal disease control, including zoonoses (ex: swine diseases, avian influenza, and rabies) and consists of 5 stages. Stage 0 is where a country would begin with no reliable information, and FMD risk is not identified. In stage 1 risk of FMD and control options will be identified (ex: Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan). In stage 2 (ex: Bangladesh), the impact of FMD will be reduced in an identified species (ex: pig or cattle) or a targeted area. In stage 3, virus circulation is reduced using vaccines, and an official national control program will be in place (ex: Vietnam, Malaysia). Stage 4 will be to obtain freedom from disease with vaccination(ex: China, India, Indonesia), and the above stages would be reaching towards complete FMD freedom without vaccination.
Remaining challenges to unleash the potential of these initiatives
Most of the time, countries in a given region like Asia do not have homogenous development; they do not get along politically and, therefore, lack communication among each other- “In Asia, talking and relationship building is half the challenge to solving problems,” Murray Hiebert, a senior associate of the Southeast Asia Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Further difficulties arise due to the difference in the administrative structure and having different official languages. Even after training is provided, there is no incentive to share technical support or laboratory facilities across the countries.
Besides, there are disparities in disease surveillance and maintaining ongoing databases to assess disease outbreaks’ economic impact. And the lack of updated policy frameworks could also jeopardize the implementation of programs, such as the PCP pathway.
The process of setting effective intersectional collaborations can be cumbersome. For instance, GFTAD regional efforts would focus on areas to promote exports through the control of TADs, instead of identifying emerging pathogens. Still, the export market is often controlled by the private sector, yet the private sector is not typically incorporated in the decision-making process.
When it comes to implementing programs such as PVS, there is a disparity of financial support to upgrade veterinary services in different countries. In most countries, financial resources are allocated by the government for veterinary services based on revenue from the international livestock trade. Therefore, the amount of interest in getting evaluated varies accordingly.
CAHFS Monthly Topic: Feasibility of Global Animal Disease Control Strategies in Asia