Addressing global disease threats

In a global meeting in Paris this week, animal- and human-health officials discussed strategies for addressing biological threats, including pathogens that could serve as biological weapons. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), in cooperation with the World Health Organisation (WHO) hosted the Global Conference on Biological Threat Reduction, which attracted representatives from over 120 countries.

The three-day conference focused on enhancing collaboration and on building a consensus for action to strengthen the ability of public and animal health systems to prevent, detect and respond to all biological threats whether they are deliberate, accidental or natural, in particular at the animal source of zoonosis.

“Considering that 60 percent of human diseases originate in animals, collectively the two organisations – OIE and WHO- share a critical role in setting standards to protect against zoonotic disease”, says Dr. Bernard Vallat, Director General of the OIE. “Today’s challenge for many countries is to ensure that they have the political will, infrastructure, resources, and effective governance to apply OIE’s Intergovernmental Standards and WHO’s International Health Regulations. Appropriate cooperation between national animal health, public health, and security sectors is critical to ensure that intergovernmental standards are respected”, he adds.

Those internationally adopted standards, according to OIE, are the basis for global infectious disease prevention and control, including early detection and rapid response to biological events, and for strong animal health and human health systems. “Compliance with these international standards ensures resilience against all infectious disease threats because the tools and systems used to detect diseases early and to control them quickly are the same whether the cause is natural, accidental or deliberate. “

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