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The OIE paves the way for a new animal disease notification system

Resolutions passed by the International Committee (IC) and recommendations issued by the Regional Commissions have instructed the OIE Central Bureau to establish a single OIE list of notifiable terrestrial animal diseases to replace the current Lists A and B. The aim in drawing up a single list is to be in line with the terminology of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), by classifying diseases as specific hazards and giving all listed diseases the same degree of importance in international trade.

In creating a single list of notifiable diseases, the OIE is faced with two challenges:

1) to define criteria for including a disease in the OIE single list that are acceptable to the majority of Member Countries, respect the criteria set out in the resolutions of the Committee (more specifically Resolution XXIII of May 2001) and are in line with the OIE’s other goals and missions;

2) to define criteria for the degree of ‘urgency’ of each reporting.

I therefore convened an Ad hoc Group on Terrestrial Animal Disease/Pathogenic Agent Notification, comprised of internationally renowned experts, to support the OIE Animal Health Information Department in defining criteria to determine whether a given disease should be included in the OIE list. This was also the occasion to to conduct a thorough review of the OIE’s animal health information system, aimed at making improvements and adapting it to meet the new requirements of a single list (frequency of reporting, nature of the information to be collected, on-line report forms, etc.).

The proposed criteria for a disease to be included in the OIE single list were kept to a minimum and consist of easily definable factors applicable world-wide. The overriding criterion for a disease to be listed is its potential for international spread. Other criteria include a capacity for significant spread within naïve populations and the zoonotic potential. Each criterion is linked to measurable parameters: if a disease fulfil at least one of these parameters, then it becomes notifiable.

Under the future OIE notification system, not only the disease but other related events will require urgent notification. All events of epidemiological significance must be notified immediately to the OIE, as laid down in Article of Chapter 1.1.3. on ‘notification and epidemiological information’ of the Terrestrial Animal Health Code. These changes will improve the efficiency of the OIE early warning system for the benefit of the international community.

The events of epidemiological significance that should be notified immediately are as follows:

- the first occurrence of a listed disease or infection in a country or compartment1;

- the re-occurrence of a listed disease or infection in a country or compartment following a report by the Delegate of the Member Country declaring the outbreak closed;

- the first occurrence of a new strain of a pathogen of a listed disease in a country or compartment;

- a sudden and unexpected increase in morbidity or mortality caused by an existing listed disease;

- emerging diseases with significant morbidity/mortality or zoonotic potential;

- evidence of a change in the epidemiology of a listed disease (including host range, pathogenicity, strain of causative pathogen), in particular if there is a zoonotic impact.

Proposals have also been made to adapt the OIE’s information system to the single list, involving changes in the frequency with which Member Countries should submit regular reports to the OIE, namely six-monthly and annual. However, in this context there will be a significant increase in the number of emergency and follow-up reports submitted.

Implementing these changes will mean completely redesigning the existing animal health information system, which will need to take full advantage of all the possibilities offered by the latest information and communication technology, including mapping software.

The timetable for implementing the new system is as follows:

- May 2004, discussion and adoption by the IC of the new criteria for categorising diseases, the current list (combination of Lists A and B) being kept without any changes;

- January 2005, effective suppression of Lists A and B and implementation of the new notification system;

- May 2005, discussion and adoption by the IC of the new OIE list of diseases, resulting from the application of the criteria adopted in May 2004.

Should unforeseen circumstances lead to delays in the setting up of the new system, Member Countries will of course be kept informed.

1 ‘Compartment’: autonomous epidemiological entity defined on the basis of either geography (zone) or management (enterprise) for the purpose of international trade (cf. Art. of the Terrestrial Animal Health Code, OIE, 2003)

Bernard Vallat

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