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The Director General of the OIE, Dr Bernard Vallat, and the Director General of the WHO, Dr Lee Jong-Wook meet in Geneva

On the 16 December 2004 Dr Bernard Vallat met with Dr Lee Jong-Wook in order to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding which had been unanimously approved by the Member Countries of the two organizations at their respective previous General Assemblies.

Dr Vallat took this opportunity to exchange views with Dr Lee Jong-Wook in order to improve the collaboration between the two organizations, particularly during crises and times of new threats from emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases. They committed that in order to improve the effectiveness of the world wide fight against zoonoses, the two organizations needed to strategize together and convince national policy makers and international donors to increase resources in controlling the pathogens at the source, while protecting human populations from infections of animal origin.

Using avian influenza as an example, it was agreed that the affected countries needed to be increasingly assisted on the prevention of the transmission of the disease to humans. Also, it was agreed that these countries should be supported on how to monitor for the presence of the virus in poultry and then aim the control efforts at the elimination of the virus at the source from domestic poultry before the risk to humans would increase.

Dr Vallat also discussed WHO's current draft text on the new International Health Regulations (IHR) to be adopted by WHO's Member Countries. He expressed his concern for the lack of reference made to the missions of the National Veterinary Services to fight animal diseases transmissible to humans (zoonosis) at the farm in order to protect both animal and human health. The lack of reference to the standards, guidelines and recommendations of the OIE in fighting zoonotic diseases was also pointed out. It was agreed to maintain close contact between experts from both organizations to further discuss this issue once WHO releases its revised IHR text in late January 2005.

At the end of the meeting Dr Lee Jong-Wook and Dr Vallat expressed their common satisfaction and pointed out that the discussions held would certainly contribute strengthening the continuous cooperation between WHO and OIE.