Facing the challenge of zoonotic diseases

04 November 2021

A disease prevalent in animals today can transfer to humans tomorrow. So, health management must be arranged under the One Health approach. A massive increase in population, super-fast urbanisation and climate change is causing the emergence of new and old diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans. The One Health approach can not only help tackle zoonotic diseases, but also different kinds of public health threats, including antibiotic resistance, vector-borne diseases, food safety and security, chronic diseases, and mental health issues, according to experts.
After the avian influenza virus, popularly known as bird flu, first broke out from Biman Poultry Complex in Dhaka's Savar on March 15, 2007, over 16 lakh chickens, raised in commercial farms across the country, died in the following year. Due to the virus's spread, hundreds of poultry farms in 47 districts were shut down, causing unemployment and losses of around Tk 4,500 crore. The disease is one of 41 prioritised emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases in the country. Generally, zoonotic diseases are naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans. The zoonotic diseases that have been detected in the country so far include dengue, chikungunya, Zika, Nipah, swine flu, anthrax, rabies, HIV, and Covid-19.
Although zoonotic diseases do not cause problems frequently, they can cause epidemics. So there is no alternative to surveillance. Public health experts recommend prompt implementation of the "One Health" approach -- which recognises that human health is closely connected to the health of animals and the shared environment. In 2008, One Health activities started in Bangladesh, with a goal to effectively coordinate among all government, private, and international stakeholders. Despite Bangladesh being among the few countries that started One Health activities in the early days, there is a long way to go.  Collaboration is a challenging task because we all have a habit of staying within our own silos.

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