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The “One Health” concept was introduced at the beginning of the 2000s. In a few words, it summarised an idea that had been known for more than a century; that human health and animal health are interdependent and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which they exist.
This concept is envisaged and implemented by the OIE as a collaborative global approach to understanding risks for human and animal health (including both domestic animals and wildlife) and ecosystem health as a whole. The OIE builds upon the intergovernmental standards which it publishes and the worldwide information on animal health that it collects as well as its network of international experts and programmes for strengthening national Veterinary Services. Moreover, it collaborates synergistically with more than 70 other international organisations, particularly those which play a key role in the human–animal–ecosystems interface.
Diseases of animal origin that can be transmitted to humans, such as avian influenza, rabies, Rift Valley fever and brucellosis, pose worldwide risks to public health. Other diseases which are mainly transmitted from person to person also circulate in animals or have an animal reservoir, and can cause serious health emergencies, such as the recent epidemic of Ebola virus. These risks increase with globalisation, climate change and changes in human behaviour, giving pathogens numerous opportunities to colonise new territories and evolve into new forms.
Today, we estimate that:
Controlling zoonotic pathogens at their animal source – that is, pathogens that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa – is the most effective and economic way of protecting people. Consequently, global strategies to prevent and control pathogens must be developed if we are to protect public health. These should be coordinated at the human–animal–ecosystems interface and applied at the national, regional and global levels, through the implementation of appropriate policies.
Veterinary Services, in both their public and private components, play an essential role in the development and implementation of policies to manage animal health risks. In protecting animal health and welfare, they meaningfully contribute towards improving human health, as well as food safety and security.
For this reason, they need appropriate and effective methods to prevent and control animal diseases, and must be able to communicate and work in close collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, in order for joint action to be taken.
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