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OIE at the European Parliament to raise awareness on animal diseases and risks for public health

Brussels, 22 January 2013 - Dr Bernard Vallat, Director General of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) spoke before Members of the European Parliament (MEP) and high officials of the European Union at a symposium organised on January 22nd 2013 by MEP Sophie Auconie (Group of European People’s Party) on “Preventing Human Pandemics by Improving Animal Health”.

MEP Auconie opened the Symposium by highlighting the thematic links between animal health and agriculture, trade, food security and poverty alleviation, as well as the relations between the OIE and the European Institutions.

Dr Vallat reminded that 60% of pathogens with a potential to harm humankind have their origin in animals as well as 75% of emerging diseases and 80% of pathogenic agents that can potentially be used in bioterrorism. He stressed that the fight against pathogens at their animal source is the best approach to protecting human health when it is threatened by pathogens of animal origin.

Infectious animal diseases would be responsible for at least 20% of the world’s losses in food production of animal origin. This statistic is even more alarming accounting for forecasts which suggest world demand in animal proteins will rise by 50% by 2030.

In addition the world is under permanent threat in today’s context of the five ‘Ts’: Trade, Travel, Transport, Tourism, Terrorism, which illustrate the historic and unprecedented globalisation of movements of people, animals and consumer goods, and provides as many opportunities for spread of pathogens to every nook and cranny of the planet.

All these factors combined are a favourable terrain for the occurrence of a serious public heath event of global scale, and increase risks posed to animal health, public health, global security and food security.

The symposium confirmed that the best prevention against infectious disease, whatever their source, is to ensure that efficient and sustainable mechanisms for early detection and rapid response to potential health disasters exist in all countries of the world, because one failing country in terms of early detection and rapid response is a threat to the planet.

Solidarity is not only essential to support the dozens of countries which do not have such mechanisms but is also of interest for disease-free developed countries, which need to protect themselves from reintroduction of diseases still present in developing or in-transition countries.