Thanks to the grace of some animals in Europe, it is estimated that around one billion cases of illness and millions of deaths have occurred due to zoo noses. Some of these zoonoses include rabies, avian flu (H5N1), SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) and COVID-19.
It only makes sense for us as humans to take precautions to prevent transfer from animals to humans, and it’s important for us as a society to take preventive measures before animal diseases break out.
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Zoonotic illnesses and domestic animals
Even with the advancements in 21st century medical know-how, there are still some zoonotic illnesses that can be spread via food consumption, underlining both the importance of good animal health and upholding good food handling and hygiene standards. Some illnesses can also be spread through contact with wildlife or between domestic animals, bringing it to the general public. An important measure taken to prevent such diseases is vaccination for both people and livestock.
As with humans, vaccines can protect animals from getting sick before it happens, minimizing their suffering and reducing the need to treat them with antibiotics. Vaccinating livestock against common strains of salmonella has proven effective in tackling these diseases on the farm amongst people.
Thanks to the EU coordinated awareness programmes for animal vaccinations as a key element at their disposal, there was an almost 50% drop in cases from poultry cases over 10 years.
Animal vaccinations are a very good tool for protecting animal health and welfare as well as safeguarding public health as they do not require medicines to be given to most of the infections they target. However, vaccination frequency is mostly unknown whilst costs may offset any benefits depending on what other types of vaccinations are being used across other species of farm animals.
The financial cost of infectious diseases carried by animals
With major disease outbreaks like Foot-and Mouth Disease and African Swine Fever, animals suffer, causing both economic and environmental costs. The decision to vaccinate animals in advance needs to be thoughtful, due to the growing social demand for animal welfare.
Fast-track vaccine development as a solution
In response to the emerging threat of the Zika virus, commercial vaccine development has achieved significant success in controlling infectious diseases. In particular, with the recent COVID pandemic, we’ve seen that developing vaccines for use in farming animals like for Schmallenberg virus has been successful in averting catastrophe and saving lives. It’s clear that taking a preventative approach to health care is something we should work on applying to all animals, as well.
By ensuring practices within animal treatments that reduce exposure and illness as much as possible, we can ensure that they don’t come into contact with disease and suffering. It’s also important to be aware of how essentially wild animal reservoirs transmit diseases back into our society; where things are rarely done away from prying eyes, prevention is key.
The speed of vaccine development needed to prevent and control infections has been instrumental in the prevention of COVID, as well as preventing other future pandemics. However, developing vaccines for regular livestock is important too. As we learned with Schmallenberg virus, rapid vaccine development plays a major role in mitigating outbreaks and disease transmission.
Local knowledge, such as what we learned from our success in developing the first-ever Schmallenberg vaccine, must be made available to every applicable component of society–including farmers and veterinary practitioners. What’s most important is that by optimizing existing regulatory tools for veterinary vaccine development and promoting collaborative surveillance efforts among human and animal health professionals will contribute to broader preparedness globally.
In recent years, CEHV vaccines have saved many lives and the public health system is more prepared than ever. But these vaccines have also been quite successful in preventing infectious diseases in farm animals like Schmallenberg virus.
Through this rapid development strategy, we know how important timing, priorities, and enforcing regulatory strategies for all parties involved is for improving prevention and preparedness for future pandemics. That knowledge has led to critical insight into how to create a better system for infectious disease management–one that takes preventive medicine with animals as seriously as people.