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Health News of Friday, 20 December 2013

Source: GNA

Diseases of animal origin surges - FAO

A Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report reveal that a surge in diseases of animal origin necessitates a new, more holistic approach to managing disease threats at the animal-human-environment interface.

It said population growth, agricultural expansion and the rise of globe-spanning food supply chains had dramatically altered how diseases emerge, jump species boundaries and spread.

The report dubbed: “World Livestock 2013: Changing Disease Landscapes,” which was made available to the Ghana News Agency by George Kourous, of the FAO Media Relations in Rome; said 70 percent of the new diseases that had emerged in humans over recent decades are of animal origin and, in part, directly related to the human quest for more animal-sourced food.

“The ongoing expansion of agricultural lands into wild areas, coupled with a worldwide boom in livestock production, means that "livestock and wildlife are more in contact with each other, and we ourselves are more in contact with animals than ever before," said Ren Wang, FAO Assistant Director-General for Agriculture and Consumer Protection.

FAO's new report provides a number of compelling reasons for taking a new tack on disease emergence.

Developing countries face a staggering burden of human, zoonotic and livestock diseases, it said, creating a major impediment to development and food safety.

It said recurrent epidemics in livestock affect food security, livelihoods and national and local economies in poor and rich countries alike; meanwhile, food safety hazards and antibiotic resistance are on the increase worldwide.

The report said globalisation and climate change are redistributing pathogens, vectors and hosts, and pandemic risks to humans caused by pathogens of animal origin present a major concern.

“Indeed, a majority of the infectious diseases that have emerged in humans since the 1940s can be traced back to wildlife,” the report stated.

FAO's new study focuses in particular on how changes in the way humans raise and trade animals had affected how diseases emerge and spread.

"In response to human population growth, income increases and urbanisation, world food and agriculture has shifted its main focus from the supply of cereals as staples to providing an increasingly protein-rich diet based on livestock and fishery products," World Livestock 2013 noted.

It said the risk of animal-to-human pathogen shifts varies greatly according to the type of livestock production and the presence of basic infrastructure and services.

The report said smallholder livestock systems - which tend to involve animals roaming freely over large areas, but still in relatively high densities - often facilitate the disease spread, both among local animal populations and over broad distances.

It said: “There is a need for stronger mechanisms for the international exchange of information on animal diseases in general, as well as on best practices in livestock rearing and managing animal health risks, within One Health framework”.

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