AGA IN ACTION
FAO in development of major initiative to combat infectious diseases
Emerging infectious diseases are spreading globally among wildlife, livestock and people due to changes in pathogen virulence, increased opportunities for species jumping, and globalization resulting in rapid geographic expansion. These emerging disease events affect national, regional, and global economies, contribute to species extinctions, burden the public health sector, and threaten food security and livelihoods, while often requiring coordinated and collaborative emergency response.
In order to combat increasing threats, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Parties met in Rome, Italy in 2008 and requested that the UNEP-CMS Secretariat and the FAO Animal Health Service co-convene the Scientific Task Force on Wildlife Diseases. The Task Force framework was based on the successful outcome of the previously established Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds, in 2005. In late-June 2011, the Task Force on Wildlife Diseases was launched in Beijing, People's Republic of China with the participation of 16 core affiliates, partners, observers, national, and student associates from more than 10 countries.
The Task Force will serve as science-based information and networking resource for partners and other interested groups including national authorities, if they request information and an improved understanding about intricate and complex disease dynamics and their impacts on human, livestock and ecosystem health. The Task Force will create publications on a wide array of topics including migration ecology, One Health case studies on diseases impacting multiple sectors, and wildlife disease fact sheets that consider One Health dimesnions. In order to avoid duplication, the group will maintain a website and link to other organisation's work relating to wildlife health. By creating a network that includes human and animal health professionals, ecologists, biologists, and students, the Task Force will work towards improving communication and information sharing across different disciplines.
It was recognized by the Task Force that many pathogens can circulate among different sectors and within agricultural or natural ecological systems demonstrating the importance of integrated approaches to health management. Using this One Health framework, disease is placed into the broader context of development, food security, natural resource management, and ecosystem services aiming to achieve wildlife and ecosystem health.
Migratory species can act as natural reservoirs for diseases and help spread the pathogens to livestock or in some cases, people. Alternatively, they can be victims of diseases spilling over from livestock or people. The understanding of migration ecology, demographics, and livestock production systems is paramount to understanding disease ecology and transmission risk factors.
The launching workshop refined the most important wildlife and ecosystem health issues to be addressed by the Task Force, including development of a draft workplan and communication strategy. Outputs of the workshop will be reported at the upcoming CMS Conference of the Parties (20-25 November 2011 in Bergen, Norway).