Animal health

Early warning and disease intelligence


Countries all over the world continue to be at risk of animal diseases and related health threats which have the consequence of significant impacts on lives and livelihoods. The most effective way to protect against endemic and emerging threats is to strengthen prevention, preparedness and response. Early detection, early warning and rapid response is an essential component of this and a lack of timely outbreak reporting and information sharing  continues to delay effective management response and aids the spread of disease within and between countries.

A comprehensive early warning system requires a coordinated effort by governments, communities, resource partners and international networks – in order to identify and understand early signals of emergence, spill over and spread of animal pathogens at the local level – including market, social, political and environmental signals. Effective early warning systems are needed to prevent the potential catastrophic losses that an animal disease threat can cause.

What we do

FAO has a long-standing role in global disease intelligence and early warning in animal health as part of its role in food chain crisis prevention for food security, and for global health security as part of the Global Early Warning System (with WOAH and WHO). It provides capacity building at regional or country level, and information management at global level – to improve preparedness and efficiency of response.

Capacity building at country level
FAO supports and strengthens the capacity of veterinary services and animal health systems to create and implement early warning systems, through providing capacity development training programmes and the development and implementation of tools to improve data collection, real time reporting, information sharing and analysis for action.

Information management at global level
Data is systematically collected (via FAO tools and through the media) and hazards are continuously monitored.

Disease information is verified by FAO animal health officers around the world, in partnership with national stakeholders, and with the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Analyse and assess
Disease intelligence and analysis is performed by veterinary epidemiologists, who produce  situation updates, risk assessments, forecasts and early warning alerts.

Decision makers including Chief Veterinary Officers in countries are informed directly or through FAO mechanisms such as alerts, risk assessments, or early warning bulletins and reports – in order to encourage governments to respond appropriately with measures including surveillance, vaccination or movement control.

How we do it

A number of tools and platforms assist country early warning systems and global health information management:

  • FAO, OIE and WHO collaborate via the Tripartite Global Early Warning System (GLEWS +) platform to enhance disease intelligence and early warning at international level using a One Health approach.
  • FAO’s EMPRES Global Animal Disease Information System (EMPRES-i+) supports veterinary services by facilitating regional and global disease information sharing. EMPRES-i maps hundreds of thousands of records of animal diseases across 190 countries.
  • FAO’s Event Mobile Application (EMA-i) facilitates quality real-time collection and reporting of animal disease and health related threats from smartphones used in the field in remote areas.
  • FAO’s Rift Valley fever Early Warning Decision Support Tool (RVF DST)  integrates near real-time RVF risk maps with geospatial data, RVF historical and current disease events from EMPRES-i+ and expert knowledge on RVF eco-epidemiology to enhance near real-time environmental monitoring, risk forecasting and assessment for preparedness and anticipatory actions.
  • FAO is one of twelve partners contributing to and using WHO’S Epidemic Intelligence from Open Sources (EIOS) initiative to monitor disease threats for the food and agriculture sector.
What have we achieved?

Reliable up-to-date intelligence from FAO and partners informs stakeholders and the global community to improve preparedness, readiness, response and control of transboundary animal diseases.

For example, several animal health emergencies at the animal-human interface, such as highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 and RVF, have been more effectively handled with information sharing and collaboration through GLEWS+.

FAO's early warning and risk assessment activities are able to highlight specific threats and model risk. The RVF DST has enhanced the Organization’s capacity to identify high-risk areas and issue alerts and early warning messages for prevention and control in countries at risk of RVF occurrence. These alerts and messages are issued well before the reporting of the first signs of RVF infection in the countries with a prediction capacity of at least 1-2 months.

Close risk communication among partners allows for better assessment, preparedness, support to affected and at-risk countries, and a more effective response. FAO  preparedness and response missions, trainings, advice and equipment distribution rely on early warning and disease intelligence.


Related links
Related documents
FAO's EMPRES Global Animal Disease Information System (EMPRES-i+)

EMPRES-i+ is FAO’s new global animal disease information system that aims to improve intelligence, forecasting and early warning, enabling countries...

Early Warning, Early Action through FAO EMPRES-i+

EMPRES-i+ is FAO’s new global animal disease information system that aims to improve intelligence, forecasting and early warning, enabling countries...


Madhur Dhingra

Head of the Emergency Prevention System for Animal Health

 [email protected]