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Regional meeting of OIE delegates of Asia, the Far East and Oceania

The 23rd Conference of the Regional Commission for Asia, the Far East and Oceania of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) was held in Noumea (New Caledonia) from 25 to 28 November 2003.

This Conference, to which all the Heads of Veterinary Services in the region, as well as numerous international and regional organisations were invited, drew up a comprehensive report on the animal health situation of Asia, the Far East and Oceania, where certain diseases are of most concern, as they can act as a barrier to regional and international trade and threaten public health.

During the Conference, special attention was focused on several issues, such as:

1. Animal carcass disposal methods (including rendering) in animal disease outbreaks
The stamping-out approach, which is traditionally the most common and successful method of disease eradication, requires technology for animal carcass disposal as an integral component. However, there is a growing trend in society to reject the excessive waste of valuable animal products and the negative environmental and animal welfare outcomes This is creating pressure for alternatives to mass animal slaughter and carcass disposal, and ultimately for a philosophical change in the approach to animal disease control, depopulation, and animal carcass disposal.

2. Update on developments in aquatic animal diseases
The aquatic animal sector in the region is not as well provided with professional health services as the livestock sector. It appears that while aquaculture has been growing rapidly in many countries, there has been no matching expansion of a supporting aquatic animal health infrastructure. The rather infrequent contact between fisheries and veterinary authorities - especially in OIE Member Countries where responsibility for aquatic animal health rests with the fisheries authorities - is of concern, not only because this may contribute to inaccurate disease reporting. Acknowledging that veterinary authorities are usually well experienced in managing terrestrial animal emergency disease outbreaks and fisheries authorities are familiar with the aquatic environment, closer cooperation between the two agencies seems eminently sensible to benefit to the industries whose livelihood may be at stake in a major aquatic disease emergency.

3. Rabies
Over half the estimated global number of human rabies deaths occur in Asia, most deaths following a dog bite. There are recent reports of rabies spreading to areas, particularly islands, which were historically free from rabies. The importance of rabies, particularly dog rabies, in the region must again be recognised as a constant risk to human health where the disease exists and a potential threat to all rabies free countries of the region. Conference participants recognised the necessity of intersectorial collaboration between the medical and veterinary sectors to integrate strategies for effective prevention and control of animal and human rabies infection, and recommended that OIE Member Countries mobilise internal and external resources to strengthen surveillance and control measures.

The Recommendations made during the Conference will give the positions of the region to all the other OIE Member Countries and will strengthen cooperation between Asia and Pacific countries and lead to the implementation of concrete measures in the region to more effectively control animal diseases, protect public health and improve access to regional and international markets in animals and animal products.

See also:The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)