An attempt to formulate strategies to prevent outbreaks of diseases which can be transmitted from animals to human is underway in Dominica.
The Second meeting of the CARIBVET Veterinary Public Health Working Group met on Tuesday morning at the Fort Young Hotel to begin planning.
Acting Chief Environmental Health Officer, Sylvester St Ville, said at the event’s opening ceremony that the workshop will assist in charting a path for the surveillance and subsequent reduction and prevention of zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans) in the region with particular emphasis on leptospirosis, salmonella and rabies.
He added that these types of diseases have been on the increase over the past few decades and over 75 percent of new pathogens are originating from animals.
To drive home the point he gave the example of a recent outbreak of leptospirosis in Dominica. “The incidents of leptospirosis increased in Dominica in 2010-2011 with the country reporting as many as 44 cases from June 2010 to December 2012,” St. Ville noted. “These 44 cases were cases which were confirmed and cases which were not confirmed were classified as undifferentiated fever. It also resulted in the death of 4 individuals.”
He remarked that although there have not been subsequent confirmed cases there is still a risk for transmission of the disease on the island.
Leptospirosis is a serious preventable bacterial disease most often transmitted to humans who are exposed to infected rat urine.
Meanwhile, Dr Alexndra Vokaty, Sub regional Veterinary Public Health Advisor in the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and Chair of the CARIBVet Veterinary Public Health Working Group, stated that the goal of the veterinary public health working group is to regularly assess the health situation regarding zoonotic and food borne diseases.
She highlighted the “One Health Approach” which she stated is an innovative strategy that is particularly relevant to veterinary public health.
“The traditional approach has been for human public health practitioners to work very separately from animal health and also environmental health,” she said. “The one health approach allows them to work together. It is a collaboration between human health practitioners, animal health professionals and environment professionals.”
Vokaty pointed out further that the workshop would assist in identifying the root cause of leptospirosis and other zoonotic diseases and formulating innovative preventative strategies to avoid outbreaks.
CARIBVET was formed by merging two other working groups; one which focused on Salmonella and the other on Rabies.
This group was then further extended to include Leptospirosis. The main objective of the group is to support the development of a regional strategy for animal health which assist in maintaining and improving the competitiveness of the livestock sub-sector in the Caribbean countries.
The three day forum has brought together veterinary public health professionals from Dominica, Suriname, Barbados, Jamaica, Guadeloupe and Grenada.