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Strengthening epidemiological surveillance of animal diseases in the Middle East

From 20 to 24 March 2000, a

Training Course on Epidemiological Surveillance of Animal Diseases

was held in Beirut (Lebanon), which was organised by the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) and the Government of Lebanon, with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of the French Republic.

This Training Course was the result of a joint effort by the Lebanese authorities, the Office International des Epizooties and the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, as well as close collaboration with several other institutions involved in animal health in the region. It fell within the framework of actions to boost collaboration with the national Veterinary Services, and of training in epidemiological surveillance methods recommended by the second Strategic Planning Group of the OIE. It brought together veterinary practitioners responsible for the surveillance of animal diseases in Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Epidemiological surveillance of animal diseases has increased in importance over the past few years, due to possible health consequences following the easing of restrictions on international trade. Surveillance is also one of the requirements of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, signed within the framework of the World Trade Organization, with regard to recognition of countries and territories free from animal diseases.

The existence of an OIE Regional Representation, established in 1999 in Beirut, through the generous contribution of the Lebanese Government and coordinated by Dr Ghazi Yehya, provided the necessary framework to respond to the wish expressed by the International Committee of the OIE to organise courses and seminars on modern epidemiological surveillance systems and on standards relating to this surveillance in the Middle East region.

The Training Course was supported by specialists from the OIE Central Bureau, the General Directorate for Food of the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the French Agency for Health Security in Food (Agence française de sécurité sanitaire des aliments - AFSSA) in Maisons-Alfort (France) and the International Cooperation Centre for Agricultural Research in Development / Department of Tropical Livestock and Veterinary Medicine (Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement / Département d'élevage et de médecine vétérinaire – CIRAD/EMVT) in Montpellier (France).

The programme included theoretical presentations and practical sessions. The main subjects dealt with were:

  • Animal health status and surveillance systems in the countries of the region;
  • Role of epidemiological surveillance within the framework of international trade agreements;
  • Basic notions of epidemiological surveillance;
  • Surveillance protocols and practical implementation of networks;
  • Management, treatment and interpretation of data;
  • Networks relating to brucellosis, rinderpest, foot and mouth disease, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy in France;
  • Epidemiological surveillance and movement of animals within Europe and between Europe and other countries.

The Office International des Epizooties recommends that cooperation in the Middle East be strengthened, with the aim of setting up a genuine regional surveillance network for livestock diseases. The existence and reliability of such a network is today one of the main prerequisites for the countries in the region to equip themselves with the methodological tools required for recognition by the OIE as being free from rinderpest and other major infectious diseases.