Africa / Animal Diseases / Animal Health / Directorate / Disease Control / Emerging Diseases / Epidemiology / ILRI / Nigeria / Zoonotic Diseases

ILRI report says Africa’s veterinary services inadequate to deal with new disease threats

Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper reports on warning given by scientists about the insufficient capacity of Africa’s current veterinary services to deal with new disease threats.

‘According to new assessments, reported yesterday at the International Conference on Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition & Health in New Delhi, India, “Wealthy countries are effectively dealing with livestock diseases, but in Africa and Asia, the capacity of veterinary services to track and control outbreaks is lagging dangerously behind livestock intensification,” said John McDermott, deputy director general for research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which spearheaded the work. . . .

‘McDermott, one of the co-author[s] with Delia Grace, said “In the poorest regions of the world, livestock plagues that were better controlled in the past are regaining ground,” they warn, with “lethal and devastating impacts” on livestock and the farmers and traders that depend on them. These “population-decimating plagues” include diseases that kill both people and their animals and destroy livelihoods. . . .

‘McDermott and Grace warn that new trends, including rapid urbanization and climate change, could act as “wild cards,” altering the present distribution of diseases, sometimes “dramatically for the worse.” The authors say developing countries need to speed up their testing and adoption of new approaches, appropriate for their development context, to detect and then to stop or contain livestock epidemics before they become widespread. . . .

‘Yet despite the great threats posed by livestock diseases, McDermott and Grace see a need for a more intelligent response to outbreaks that considers the local disease context as well as the livelihoods of people. They observe that “while few argue that disease control is a bad thing, recent experiences remind us that, if livestock epidemics have negative impacts, so too can the actions taken to control or prevent them.’”

‘An exclusive focus on avian influenza preparedness activities in Africa relative to other more important disease concerns, they point out, invested scarce financial resources to focus on a disease that, due to a low-density of chicken operations and scarcity of domestic ducks, is unlikely to do great damage to much of the continent. And they argue that a wholesale slaughter of pigs in Cairo instituted after an outbreak of H1N1 was “costly and epidemiologically pointless” because the disease was already being spread “by human-to-human transmission.”

‘McDermott and Grace conclude that to build surveillance systems able to detect animal disease outbreaks in their earliest stages, developing countries will need to work across sectors, integrating veterinary, medical, and environmental expertise in “one-health” approaches to assessing, prioritizing and managing the risks posed by livestock diseases.’

Read the whole article in Vanguard (Nigeria): Livestock diseases: Africa lacks capacity for veterinary services—reports, 12 February 2011.

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