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Infectious Diseases Q4 2022

One Health surveillance protects an interconnected world

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Dr Sean Shadomy

Senior One Health Advisor, CDC One Health Office

The health of people, animals and the environment are closely linked; surveillance to monitor their health should be too.

Recent events have shown how the health of people, animals and our shared environment are closely connected. Most infectious diseases affecting people are zoonotic (they can be spread between animals and people), such as COVID-19, monkeypox, Ebola and avian influenza. These diseases can have profound impacts on societies. So how can authorities from different sectors find these diseases early enough to provide warning and control their spread? One Health – an approach that recognises that the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment – is the answer.

What is One Health surveillance

Surveillance for zoonotic diseases cannot be effectively done by any single organisation or sector. Instead, the global community needs surveillance systems that bring together information from human, animal and environmental sources so that it can be rapidly analysed and provide a holistic, situational picture across all sectors. A One Health approach is essential for detection, monitoring and response to zoonotic diseases and similar threats at the human-animal-environment interface, such as antimicrobial resistance. One Health surveillance is crucial for finding new, emerging zoonotic diseases, and it is important that every level of society is involved.

Surveillance is crucial for finding new, emerging zoonotic diseases and it is important that every level of society is involved.

Everyone has a role 

The international organisations responsible for human and animal health, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) and World Health Organization (WHO), play a critical role in using national data to monitor and warn about new disease threats.

One Health surveillance starts at the national level, where human and animal health events first occur and are then reported internationally. Countries can use the information collected by national One Health surveillance systems for early detection, response and to provide guidance back to the community on disease prevention.

Surveillance systems developed by countries range from smartphone-based community surveillance to national platforms linking human and animal health surveillance systems. They can focus on a single disease or multiple diseases.

Building capacity is key 

CDC and its partners provide One Health expertise to partners in countries and regions, including providing training and tools to strengthen surveillance and link the sectors together.

Each country is part of the global community, with shared responsibility for protecting the health security of that community. One Health surveillance and intersectoral coordination within and between nations will help to detect and prevent an epidemic of known infectious diseases as well as the next “disease X.”

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