'Six out of ten infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals'
Better understanding of the connection between human health and the animal world is vital if lethal outbreaks of disease are to be prevented in the future, a conference to be hosted in Dublin next week to mark World Food Day (WFD), will hear.
The inter-connectedness of human health, agriculture, wildlife and the environment will be the focus of the event, to be hosted by the Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development (IFIAD) at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin next Monday, 16 October.
The event will bring together health practitioners, animal scientists, agriculturalists and representatives from international development to promote ‘One Health’, a recognition that the health of people is directly connected to the health of animals and the environment.
“Six out of ten infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals,” said Dr. Lance O’Brien of Teagasc, who is chair of IFIAD. “The issue of ‘One Health’ is therefore critically important to the farming sector, the health profession, research organisations, and agencies involved in development work overseas. In Ireland, we must first of all recognize this, and then take steps to work together more closely.”
‘We in Ireland know only too well about the links between livestock and infections such as TB and BSE in the human population. Overseas, infections that have spread from animals to humans, including Avian flu, Salmonella, Lassa Fever, Nipah Virus, Lyme disease, Ebola and of course HIV, have caused large numbers of fatalities.”
Speaking in advance of next week’s IFIAD conference, Dr. Monica Gorman of the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science said that the links between human health, animal health and environmental health had been ‘a blind spot’ for a long time, but that recent pandemics were forcing us to sit up and take note.
“It is critical for everyone engaged in promoting agricultural development to recognize the links between human health, animal health, wildlife and the environment, and to recognize that how we manage our livestock can have broader health implications,” she said.
Agricultural specialist at Gorta-Self Help Africa, Paul Wagstaff, said that the issue was hugely important for Irish organisations working in developing countries too, as agencies needed to be acutely aware that increased farm production and sustainable agricultural intensification needed to be approached in a manner that does not have knock-on implications for human health further down the line.