The director general of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), Bernard Vallat, DVM, called for action against the rising threat that animal pathogens pose to the world's security at the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Meeting of States Parties.
Accidental or deliberate release of animal pathogens can have disastrous repercussions for public health, economies and social stability because 60 percent of human infectious diseases originate from animals (zoonoses) and, infectious diseases of animals also cause huge losses to agriculture. Because of these impacts, most agents that can be used for bio-weapons are animal pathogens.
Effective surveillance, early detection and rapid response mechanisms for animal diseases that comply with OIE international standards are the most effective defense against any infectious animal disease outbreak, whether the cause is natural, accidental or intentional. OIE laboratory standards for bio risk management will also protect against accidental release of pathogens from laboratories and guard against pathogens falling into the wrong hands. Unfortunately today, the quality of surveillance and response mechanisms for animal diseases varies from country to country, and, in our globalized world, weaknesses in one country pose a threat to all others.
Today's movement of people, animals and consumer goods enables the rapid global spread of infectious animal diseases. SARS, avian flu, mad cow disease and Ebola are all examples highlighting the potentially disastrous consequences that animal pathogens can pose if they are not eliminated at their primary source.