A new One Health High-Level Expert Panel has been launched by various international organisations to improve understanding of how zoonotic diseases with the potential to trigger pandemics emerge and spread.
What is Happening?
- The panel will advise four international organisations- the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO)- on the development of a long-term global plan of action to avert outbreaks of diseases like H5N1 avian influenza, MERS, Ebola, Zika and, possibly, COVID-19.
- Three quarters of all emerging infectious diseases originate in animals.
- The panel will operate under the One Health Approach, which recognises the links between the health of people, animals and the environment and highlights the need for specialists in multiple sectors to address any health threats and prevent disruption to food systems.
- The panel will consider the impact of human activity on the environment and wildlife habitats. Important areas will include food production and distribution, urbanisation and infrastructure development, international travel and trade, activities that lead to biodiversity loss and climate change and those that put increased pressure on the natural resource base- all of which can lead to the emergence of zoonotic diseases.
- The panel will also guide development of a new research agenda and draw up evidence-based recommendations for global, regional, national and local action.
- Key first steps will include systematic analyses of scientific knowledge about the factors that lead to transmission of a disease from animal to human and vice versa, development of risk assessment and surveillance frameworks, identification of capacity gaps as well as agreement on good practices to prevent and prepare for zoonotic outbreaks.
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Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said: “Human health does not exist in a vacuum, and nor can our efforts to protect and promote it. The close links between human, animal and environmental health demand close collaboration, communication and coordination between the relevant sectors. The High-Level Expert Panel is a much-needed initiative to transform One Health from a concept to concrete policies that safeguard the health of the world’s people.”
Featured image by: Flickr