Commitment and Collaboration: Moving Forward from A/H1N1

Welcome to the RCZI blog!

We are excited by the prospect of using a new media tool to further disseminate information on zoonoses and more importantly to bring into our fold a larger group of people who can through their scientific research, practice and understanding, strengthen understanding of issues and disseminate knowledge on zoonoses prevention and control in India. This is also an attempt to enrich the content of this website.

The blog is a simple but effective effort to further our commitment to optimise a two-way communication with our partners and users. The blog provides an expeditious system for you, our stakeholders, to present ideas while engaging in robust scientific discussion with the goal of controlling and preventing zoonoses.

Those of us who are working in the vast and complex field of zoonoses are seeing how the significance of a diverse and emerging group of infections is underestimated and understudied. That the prevalence of zoonoses is higher in the developing world, where health professionals are often deprived of the rapid and free availability of related scientific information, places that much more responsibility on us.

The huge potential of the World Wide Web (www) has allowed many of us free access to specialised content as we remain updated on global developments, establish contact with experts, gain insights into how established institutions of repute think and strategically focus on targets, goals and objectives and most importantly learn from some of these exchanges as we refine our own projects and initiatives.

Recent episodes of H5N1 and A/H1N1 have shown us, especially those in the South Asian cluster that includes India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, how ill-equipped we are to deal with disease outbreaks, especially where evidence-based research is inadequate. With fairly similar socio-economic-cultural and geographical patterns, there are commonalities that necessitate a more vibrant exchange of information and collaborative effort.

In the recent outbreaks, while our governments responded with swiftness by setting up emergency units, establishing monitoring mechanisms and launching advocacy drives to inform and reassure a panic-stricken general population (see our website on A/H1N1), we were forced to accept that there still remained visible chinks in the armour. Pandemic preparedness continues to be a grey area in the developing world, given our diversities, large population, poor rural communities and inaccessible zones. Special skill sets and innovative, affordable tools are needed to combat these.

Through the RCZI blog we hope to continuously update health professionals who deal with zoonoses in all their medical, veterinary and public health aspects. The site will be a repository of information that can be accessed by both the specialist and the non specialist and will hold potential of acquiring depth through its interactive platforms, allowing feedback, sharing of resources and cross linking to help evolve into a rich and dynamic medium.

Our focus would be to keep the site simple, jargon free and easy to navigate. And we want this blog to serve as a portal to real, open and honest scientific communication. We solicit not just your comments and feedback but also your commitment to partner us in making the site and blog interactive, informative and user-friendly. That said, this blog is moderated.

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6 Responses to Commitment and Collaboration: Moving Forward from A/H1N1

  1. Arvind says:

    Very good post. I think the problem of zoonoses stems from the fact that we have been using unnatural processes in breeding livestock. A dutch friend of mine once told me how they pulverise animal remains such as bones and cartilege at very high temperatures, convert it into powder and add it to feedstock to be fed to cattle and poultry. While this might save costs for the dairy and egg industry in the short run, it would have serious health ramifications for the consumer in the long. We might want to introspect on whether commercial efficiency shoudl be achieved at a huge social cost. H1N1 and bird flu arent ancient diseases, but a product of modern technology

    • Prions are thermostable agents that produce diseases like CJDnV, etc. These agents persist in animal bones and spread to other animals which consume the bone meal prepared from such animal infected animals and humans.. Then what is the solution????. In some countries PRION Diseases are reported in Human beings, —although only as a medical curiosity rather than as an epidemic. We must be aware of these diseases and be prepared ton control and contain.- Dr Ramchandra Rao

  2. Faraaz Khan says:

    Awareness is the key to controlling any disease. This blog is one of the best tools for such effective communication.

  3. Dr Kapil Gandha says:

    This is a need of hour because deaths due to diseases like H1N1 is the failure of the health system to protect common man. Blog is recently available tool to communicate…Keep it up…

    Dr kapil Gandha MD (Community Medicine)
    Faculty, M P Shah Medical College, Jamnagar, Gujarat.

  4. My organization (Humane Society International) is focused on animal protection issues but we have a significant interest in zoonoses and addressing the threats from zoonotic diseases in an effective way. In India, this has resulted in our becoming involved in programs to reduce the public health threats from stray dogs but we have also been calling attention to the zoonotic dangers that stem from intensive animal agriculture systems. My colleague, Dr Michael Greger, has written the definitive work on the potential threat of a pandemic flu virus (available for download free at http://birdflubook.com/g.php?id=5) that calls attention to the dangers of intensive poultry production systems.

    Here is an extract from his book that highlights the importance of zoonoses (the numbers refer to references)..

    “Almost by definition, “novel” viruses tend to come from other species.721 In 1959, the World Health Organization defined the term “zoonosis” to describe this phenomenon,722 from the Greek zoion for “animal” and nosos for “disease.” Most emerging infections are RNA viruses such as Ebola, HIV, or influenza723 -not surprising, given their ability to mutate rapidly, evolve, and adapt to new hosts.724 Although many doctors of today learned in their medical school textbooks that viruses were species-specific and therefore couldn’t jump from animals to people,725 we now know that viruses are, as the Mayo Clinic describes, “masters of interspecies navigation.”726

    The exact proportion of emerging human diseases that have arisen from (other) animals is unknown. In 2004, the director of the CDC noted that “11 of the last 12 emerging infectious diseases that we’re aware of in the world, that have had human health consequences, have probably arisen from animal sources.”727 An editorial in Lancet published the same year insisted that “[a]ll human diseases to emerge in the past 20 years have had an animal source..”728 In any case, experts agree that it’s a sizeable majority.729 Eleven out of the top 12 most dangerous bioterrorism agents are zoonotic pathogens as well.730 The Institute of Medicine published a report on the factors implicated in the emergence of disease in the United States. “The significance of zoonoses in the emergence of human infections,” it concluded, “cannot be overstated.”731

    According to the World Health Organization, the increasing numbers of animal viruses jumping to humans is expected to continue.732 The zoonotic virus pool is by no means exhausted.733 “If you look at the animal kingdom-from goats, sheep, camels, poultry, all fish, just about any animal you can name-they [each] have probably 30 or 40 major diseases,” notes the WHO expert who led the fight against SARS. “So the possibility for exposure is huge.”734 Estimates as to the number of zoonotic diseases run into the thousands.735 “For every virus that we know about, there are hundreds that we don’t know anything about,” said one professor of tropical medicine at Tulane who studies emerging viruses in Africa. “Most of them,” he said, “we probably don’t even know that they’re out there.”736

    Transmissions of disease from animal to person are not new.737 Most of the human infectious diseases that exist today originally came from animals.738 Many of humanity’s greatest scourges-including influenza-can be traced back thousands of years to the domestication of animals.739 ”

    While intensive animal agriculture is an excellent incubation system for virulent viruses, the systems employed today to deliver meat, dairy products and eggs to our tables also pose other threats. These systems require large amounts of antibiotics – far more than are used by humans. This heavy use of antibiotics helps drive the development of antibiotic resistance with consequent threats to human health. For example, Dr Greger cites an industry study that claims that a total ban on feeding antibiotics to confined farm animals in the USA would be an increase in the price of poultry of around 1-2 cents per pound and an additional cost to the average American consumer of around $10 per person per year (or around $3 billion). By comparison, antibiotic-resistant infections cost the United States around $30 billion a year and kill 90,000 people.

    While the big poultry and pork producers have pointed the finger at small backyard operations as posing the biggest threat for an emerging deadly flu virus, it is the big systems with tens of thousands of birds confined indoors that are the real threat. A recent editorial, New infectious diseases and industrial food animal production., by Johns Hopkins University scientists (Emerg Infect Dis. 2010 Sep;16(9):1503) also points to the dangers of intensive animal production.

    Intensive farm animal systems are not only inhumane for the animals, they pose threats to public health, to the environment, to the farm workers and to vibrant rural communities. India is going through a very exciting period in its history and is very influential among the non-aligned nations. It has the potential to lead the world in the development and implementation of new public health approaches and new agricultural systems that pioneer a way towards more sustainable and more humane (for people, animals and the environment) approaches to the challenges facing the world today.

    Andrew N. Rowan, PhD
    CEO, Humane Society International

  5. More than 200 zoonoses are recognized by WHO, FAO and OIE. The list is increasing. Nine new human diseases are said to have emerged from animals- SARS, Ebola virus, Hanata virus, etc., The CDC Journal EID is devoting one complete issue of a month about these diseases. These diseases are better controlled at animal level to prevent human incidence. Properly trained Veterinary Public health personnel are essential to undertake work on these diseases. Even Rabies control programme in developing countries is not effectively implemented. There is so much to be shared by way of resources between veterinary and medical professionals. RCZI should serve as a platform for studies on zoonotic diseases. Animals serve as sentinels of zoonotic disease and serve for forecasting human disease and prevention thereafter.

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