‘India gearing up to control zoonotic pathogens at their animal source to prevent Covid-like outbreaks’

Monika Yadav | | Updated on: Nov 25, 2021
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Atul Chaturvedi, Secretary, Animal Husbandry stresses on implementing the ‘One Health’ framework to prevent such disease outbreaks

In the past eight decades, the emergence of zoonotic diseases has increased significantly, raising public health, economic, societal and environmental concerns. This has been exacerbated by the emergence of zoonotic pathogen like SARS-CoV-2 in human beings, which resulted in Covid-19. According to The Lancet , over 70 per cent of zoonotic diseases originated from wildlife. These include HIV/AIDS, the Ebola virus, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). In an exclusive interaction with BusinessLine , Atul Chaturvedi, Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, explains the implications of outbreaks of zoonotic diseases and how India is gearing up to deal with such outbreaks. Excerpts:

Covid-19 showed the devastating impact that zoonotic diseases can have on human beings. How can India address future zoonotic outbreaks?

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the devastating impacts that a disease outbreak can have on human life. This has served as an indicator for us to accelerate efforts and implement the One Health framework. Implementation of One Health will allow tracking and resolving challenges of animal and human health that prevent possible infections and disease outbreaks. The One Health approach will help in forewarning, prevention, early detection, and control of public health emergencies and mitigate endemic zoonotic outbreaks. To lead the One Health initiative, The Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying is focusing on interventions that resolve challenges of veterinary manpower shortages, limitations of diagnostic services and epidemiological support, lack of information sharing between stakeholders and institutions, and inadequate coordination on food safety at slaughter, distribution, and retail facilities.

What is ‘One Health concept’?

‘One Health’ is an approach which recognizes that animal health, human health, and environment are inextricably connected. Two-thirds of the infectious diseases affecting humans originate from animals. Most of the public health emergencies of international concern during the current millennium had wildlife as their origin. In the past we have seen disease outbreaks that have had major implications on the social and economic landscape of the nation. These outbreaks have been witnessed with emergence of new infections, re-emergence of existing diseases that are often neglected, detection of antimicrobial resistance at human-animal-environment interface and influence of climate change on vector-borne diseases and vector epidemiology.

Globally as well as in India, the One Health approach has been recognized and is being implemented to achieve quality human health and development of social and environmental ecosystems.

Also read: Atul Chaturvedi reappointed as President of SEA of India

How does the One Health approach help curtail antimicrobial resistance?

Resistance to common antibiotics can slide the world into pre-antibiotic era. As part of the ‘One Health’ initiative, we are looking at building good production practices at farm and field level to reduce disease burden and hence anti-microbial resistance. To reduce the incidence of diseases that can be prevented, we are organizing vaccination drives in critical areas. Under the National Animal Disease Control Programme (NADCP) animals are vaccinated for FMD, PPR and Brucella. As anti-microbial resistance is relevant in several sectors and industries, we are initiating awareness programmes to reach out to the different stakeholders. As part of the ongoing World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying is organizing ‘Anti-Microbial Resistance National Action Plan Stakeholders Workshop’ to bring together stakeholders’ focus on anti-microbial resistance activities and work towards developing an implementable action plan with a focus on the animal husbandry sector.

What will implementation of ‘One Health’ look like on the ground? What is the department doing to implement it?

Operationalizing a ‘One Health’ approach requires leveraging the cooperation and strengths of diverse sectors, both public and private, including livestock, human health, wildlife, environment, technology, and finance to develop solutions to these local, national, and global challenges. The Government of India’s Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the World Bank has initiated ‘One Health’ activities will bring together key stakeholders to plan on how to effectively mount a collaborative and coordinated response to these challenges. The Department has been working closely with the office of the Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India, to develop an end-to-end digital platform for livestock sector and aims to create a unique identification number for animals and their registration. This will help in real-time reporting of livestock disease and active surveillance of diseases. The digital platform tries to address information gaps at multiple levels in livestock production. The platform also enables monitoring disease prevalence in specific geographies as well as the kind of remedy and services provided for identifying and mitigating the diseases.

The Government of India is committed to focusing its resources on improving the health and security of livestock and people. This will be achieved by building and strengthening India’s One Health systems, including animal and human surveillance, workforce development, improved laboratory infrastructure, outbreak detection, reporting and response, biosecurity in animal production systems and community awareness.

Published on November 25, 2021

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