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January 01, 2020

Legislation would create one-health response to outbreaks

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Members of the AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee lobbied Congress in October 2019 to support a bipartisan bill that would require federal agencies to adopt a one-health approach when responding to zoonotic disease outbreaks.

The Advancing Emergency Preparedness Through One Health Act of 2019 would mandate that the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture oversee the creation of a national one-health framework for coordinating federal activities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to zoonotic disease emergencies.

“Diseases like rabies, salmonella, West Nile Virus, and avian flu are all examples of diseases that are seen in animals before humans and can be fatal in both,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader, one of three veterinarians currently serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, in a July press release. “Improving coordination and communication between veterinarians who work with animals every day and federal agencies who can respond to health outbreaks would no doubt have lifesaving consequences.”

Dr. Schrader, a Democrat from Oregon, introduced the House bill in July along with fellow veterinarian Rep. Ted Yoho, a Republican from Florida.

“Coordination between government agencies is essential to address, analyze, and eliminate zoonotic outbreaks,” Dr. Yoho said in the press release.

Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that six out of 10 infectious diseases were seen in animals before humans. The legislation would improve coordination between veterinarians and physicians by requiring HHS and the USDA to implement a one-health model.

Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota, and Sen. Todd Young, a Republican from Indiana, introduced their version of the bill in the U.S. Senate in June.

“Minnesota was hit by an avian flu outbreak a few years back, and since then I’ve talked with Minnesotans about how we can work to prevent future outbreaks because they take a real toll on families and the economy,” said Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee, in a June press release.

“I pushed adopting a ‘one health’ approach while I served as Lieutenant Governor, and now I’m continuing that work in the Senate,” she continued. “We need to recognize the connection between human, animal and environmental health so preparedness efforts meet the needs of all people, all ages, and all communities.”

The Infectious Diseases Society of America has endorsed the Advancing Emergency Preparedness Through One Health Act, as have the National Association of County and City Health Officials and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

“Humans, animals, and the environment interact more than ever before, and a One Health approach is necessary to develop effective solutions to many infectious disease threats,” said Cindy Sears, MD, immediate past president of the IDSA, in a statement.