In a media conference call on Wednesday, the Animal Health Institute (AHI) discussed new initiatives and collaborations regarding the One Health Initiative (Bovine Veterinarian, Sept. 2008).
“There is a tremendous amount of misinformation,” says Alexander Mathews, chief executive officer of AHI. “We want to improve public awareness and link animal health, stakeholders, agricultural organizations and consumer groups together. We want people to realize animal health is essential to human health.”
Richard Carnevale, veterinarian and vice president of regulatory, scientific and international affairs for AHI, says: “Animal health is essential to human health. Nearly 1500 diseases are recognized in humans and many can move from animals to humans and humans to animals.”
People everywhere have animal contact. In urban areas, it may be pets, and in agriculture, people have direct contact with livestock and poultry. Regardless, it’s important that diseases are controlled to prevent disease in humans as many are zoonotic. “Medicines are important for keeping animals healthy, but they are only one tool,” Carnevale continues.
“Vaccines, pesticides and pharmaceuticals help keep diseases at bay,” adds Carnevale. “Examples are vaccines for rabies and West Nile virus, which are critical to human health. Flea and tick products and dewormers have helped pets live close to humans. The quality of life of animals has been improved with products such as antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. Medicines for Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, and so on in pets, and a recent anti-influenza vaccine in the canine community are other examples.”
Carnevale notes that the veterinary and human medical community share the same goals on the One Health issue. “Just as our doctors keep us healthy, veterinarians play a key role in animal health, environmental health and public health.”
He went on to explain the rigorous processes employed at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, USDA and EPA to ensure that animal medical products and pesticides are safe and effective. “The processes are fundamentally based on science and research.”
The disease-prevention continuum is to prevent disease transmission between animals and humans, states Carnevale. “Prevention of disease in food animals can stop them from entering the food supply.” He notes, for example, the new cattle vaccine for E. coli. “This came along at an important time because of E. coli foodborne illnesses.”
Veterinarians and risk assessment
Also participating on the call was Scott Hurd, veterinarian, Iowa State University professor, and formerly Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety for all meat and poultry inspection in the U.S. In that position, Hurd recalls what was impressed on him was the critical role of veterinarians.
“As early as 1906, meat inspection has been driven by animal health,” Hurd explains. “The reason veterinarians are required to be in slaughterhouses is it’s clear that healthy animals are required for the food chain. Veterinary inspectors are there in every federal inspection plant every day, over 1,100 of them. Their job is first and foremost looking at every animal standing and at rest from both sides to make sure it’s healthy, which demonstrates that healthy animals are needed to make food.”
Veterinarians on the farm and producers work to maintain the herd or flock health, Hurd notes. There are a variety of mechanisms, medications, ventilation systems, climate control, making sure animals are up off the ground, out of the dirt and feces, and pathogen contamination control factors that are employed.
“Feeding systems, nutrition, parasite control and vaccination all are important tools. The veterinarians in the field and farmers need all the tools available. Public policy makes and those who don’t understand animal production who try to influence that ability will impede public health and reduce it. Recent research shows as the level of lesions on a carcass increases, so does the amount of contamination on the carcass for Salmonella, for example,” he says.
“Risk assessments show no human health impact form correctly used medication,” added Hurd. “When we talk about policies impacting animal health, they will influence public health.”
When Hurd was asked about the potential effects from the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, he notes that, “From a risk-assessment standpoint, there is a direct relationship to any legislation that impacts how animals are raised, if that legislation affects animal health. The hope with PAMTA is it will improve animal health, but a risk assessment looks at secondary consequences.
“If you reduce antibiotics and interventions, you increase the number of animals coming to market that have increased illness days from Campylobacter in poultry, for example, than if the pathogens had been removed before,” Hurd continues. “There is a direct relationship when there is a quantitative association between animal health and carcass contamination. Pubic health people don’t want to put in place policy if there will be a net decrease in animal health.”
Mathews says AHI will develop materials on the connection between animal medications, human health, zoonotic diseases and the role of veterinarians.
“We have fact sheets, brochures and shortly will have a website at: www.healthyanimals.org These materials will change as time and issues warrant. We want a solid resource where people can go to build awareness and unite consumer organizations and other groups. We are inextricably linked,” he concludes.