Experts call for a One Health approach to fight zoonoses

Public health and wildlife experts have advocated adopting the One Health approach to policy formulation in the country. The concept that gained traction among policymakers around the world was key to ongoing efforts in zoonotic prevention, they said.

Parag Nigam, head of wildlife health management at the Wildlife Institute of India, who participated in the celebration of World Zoonoses Day here, called for cross-sectoral coordination between public health and veterinary services to provide human and animal health interventions in rural areas.

Suggesting a change from the classic approach to disease control, he also urged public health officials to think in terms of ecosystems involving people, livestock, wildlife and natural communities.

Speaking about how the environment was critical to the disease emergency, Dr Nigam said overpopulation relative to environmental resources remained a pressing problem in many developing countries. Habitat alterations due to unplanned urbanization have placed humans in increasing contact with animals and arthropods that carry viral infections. Poor living conditions and inadequate health systems also contributed to the scenario, he said.

SVS Mallik, Senior Scientist and Chief, Veterinary Public Health, Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly, said 868 (or 61%) of known human pathogens were zoonotic in nature. In addition, 75% of emerging infectious diseases in humans including Ebola, HIV and influenza are of animal origin.

According to him, the transfer of pathogens from wild species appears to be particularly widespread, although contact between humans and wildlife is rarer than with domestic animals. The main drivers of zoonoses included deforestation or land use change in forest areas, loss of wildlife biodiversity, dense human populations, and human-wildlife interactions.

“The emergence of SARS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and SARS-CoV-2 have forced humanity to introspect its approach to emerging zoonotic diseases from a one-health perspective,” a- he declared.

Public health expert B. Ekbal and Biju Soman, Professor and Associate Dean (Health Sciences), Achutha Menon Center for Health Science Studies, also spoke at various technical sessions organized by the Indian Veterinary Association Kerala as part of the celebration.

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