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Sierra Leone News: A proactive approach to animal health and disease is critical

On 18 June 2018, the mysterious death of 127 goats and sheep in Kenema and Moyamba were reported to the Ministry of Agriculture. The unknown outbreak among small ruminant’s falls into the category of Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), created tension among animal’s farmers and consumers as the cause of death and possible disease remains unknown.
Roland Suluku, coordinator, Serology and Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory of Njala University on Friday 29 June 2018, said the signs and symptoms include dullness in the animals, excess salivation dehydration and diarrhea. The severity of illness could result in death. Suluku has confirmed that the lab test has been done adding that he is happy that the result of the test can be contained. He refused to disclose the result.
Suluku added despite the lab test, records of deaths of animals continue to occur in almost every part of the country.
Highlighting the need for a proactive approach to animal health and disease, Juan Lubroth, the Chief Veterinary Officer at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), stated, “Some 75% of new infectious diseases that have emerged in recent decades originated in animals before jumping to us Homo sapiens, a terrestrial mammal.”
“This is why adequately discovering and tackling animal disease threats at source represents a strategic high-ground in pre-empting future pandemics,” Lubroth says.
According to the UN food security agency, beyond the risks posed to human health, animal diseases can cost billions of dollars and hamstringing economic growth.
“For instance, outbreaks of high impact disease in recent decades all had an animal source, including H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza, H1N1 pandemic influenza, Ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).The H5N1 outbreak of the mid-2000s alone caused an estimated $30 billion USD in economic losses, globally. A few years later, H1N1 racked up as much as $55 billion USD in damages,” FAO said.
As with any disaster, the worst affected are often the poorest and most vulnerable. “Animals are their primary capital assets ‘equity on four legs’. Losing them can push these families out of self-reliance and into destitution,” states FAO.
Backed by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) support, the FAO trainings covered critical areas related to animal health, including disease surveillance and forecasting, laboratory operations, biosafety and biosecurity, prevention and control methods and outbreak response strategies. A proactive approach to animal health and disease is critical, highlighted, Lubroth.
“For that approach, the world needs well-trained, up-to-speed professional’s biologists, ecologists, microbiologists, modellers, physicians and veterinarian’s ­ which is why the United States’ consistent support for building up that kind of capacity has been invaluable,” he stressed.
SV/9/7/18
By Sylvia Villa
Tuesday July 10, 2018.

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