OIE to aid against disease, uncertainty

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Global animal health leaders urged improved readiness for disasters and harmful trends, updated rabies standards, and pledged to organize against African swine fever.

Delegates to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) 87th General Session, held May 26-31 in Paris, received a report that encourages countries to examine possible sources of change for their national veterinary services, monitor for threats, use forecasts when making plans, pay more attention to climate change and other changes important to the public, and find ways to improve veterinary services. They also updated guidance on controlling dog-mediated rabies to let countries apply for OIE endorsement of control programs, helping those countries gain freedom from the disease, as well as agreed to update standards on dog ownership and preventing rabies in humans.

The delegates pledged to improve international coordination against African swine fever, a disease of pigs that is spreading through herds in China and nearby countries following years of spread in Europe. OIE officials passed a resolution to work with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to identify essential steps in controlling ASF and aiding development of expert networks and research alliances.

Curriculum standards

Earlier this year, the OIE published curriculum guidelines for veterinary paraprofessionals, which complement existing OIE competency guidelines for veterinary paraprofessionals. A country's national veterinary services agency can use both sets of guidelines to develop job descriptions and help training institutions create curricula. Paraprofessionals can use the guidelines to guide assessments, education, and careers. The recent standards describe curricula designed for animal health, veterinary public health, and laboratory diagnostics tracks and the competencies needed for those jobs.

OIE delegates
National delegates attend a plenary session of the 87th World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) General Session, May 26-31 in Paris. (Photos courtesy of OIE/Maurine Tric)

Countries with too few veterinarians can supplement their workforce with veterinary paraprofessionals, who help control diseases such as peste des petits ruminants, an OIE announcement states. Paraprofessionals administer vaccines, conduct disease surveillance, and investigate illnesses.

"On a broader scale, these VPPs may also be expected to take part in a wide range of activities, under the direction and responsibility of veterinarians, from disease prevention and control activities to meat inspections or laboratory diagnostic testing, depending on qualifications and training, as well as other country's needs," the announcement states. "Yet, oftentimes, countries lack qualified VPPs, because their competencies differ from those which are needed in their particular context or because appropriate training options are not available locally."

In a survey of OIE member countries in Africa, 98% of responding countries indicated training is the best way for veterinary paraprofessionals to improve animal health and welfare.

Responding to change

The report on external sources of change is part of an OIE effort to help countries prepare for climate change and other external factors, according to an announcement.

Drs. Eloit, Schipp, and Stone
Dr. Monique Eloit, director general of the OIE; Dr. Mark Schipp, president; and Dr. Matthew Stone, deputy director general for international standards and science, participate in a panel at the 87th OIE General Session in May.

"Although most OIE Member Countries are concerned about several external factors, less than two thirds assess them," the announcement states. "As highlighted in the presentation, the vulnerability of Veterinary Services can be reduced through adaptation and mitigation strategies based on planning and reactive adjustments to change. Countries were encouraged to increase their level of awareness and get prepared for external factors effects through the development of a risk register, foresight exercises and institutional risk assessments."

In the report, authors from the OIE and International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, describe responses to questionnaires on the factors that could affect veterinary services over the next decade and abilities to adapt.

Out of 182 OIE member countries, 134 responded and 125 answered all questions. Another 106 stakeholders—which include representatives of reference laboratories, OIE collaborating centers, and experts—responded to another survey.

"The top three priorities for OIE Member Countries are emerging disease, antimicrobial resistance and animal pandemics, while the top three for Stakeholders are antimicrobial resistance, emerging disease and zoonoses," the report states. "The main differences are that Stakeholders think biodiversity, antimicrobial resistance and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions should be higher priority and rate livestock pandemics, animal welfare and foodborne disease as a lower priority."

OIE countries tend to focus on managing emergencies rather than fostering improvement, the report states. Planning becomes more important in times of uncertainty, yet less than half of countries try to forecast external sources of change that could affect their veterinary services, it states.

"Many OIE Member Countries did not appear familiar with planning and management language or thinking," according to the report. "Among the strategy and development documents reported, climate change is neglected.

"However, OIE Member Countries consider planning, disease risk assessment, institutional risk assessment and Foresight to be important tools for preparing the Veterinary Services for an uncertain future."

Many countries want help to improve their preparation, the report states.

Related JAVMA content:

U.S. braces for African swine fever (May 15, 2019)

Animal welfare, veterinary capacity on global agenda (July 15, 2017)

Ending human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies (Dec. 15, 2015)

Eradicating goat plague (Nov. 1, 2015)

Raising global veterinary standards (Feb. 1, 2014)