Expert Report

Animal Health at the Crossroads: Preventing, Detecting, and Diagnosing Animal Diseases (2005)

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The confirmed case of "mad cow" disease (BSE) in June 2005 illustrates the economic impact of disease outbreaks, as additional countries closed their markets to U.S. beef and beef products. Emerging diseases also threaten public health--11 out of 12 of the major global disease outbreaks over the last decade were from zoonotic agents (that spread from animals to humans). Animal Health at the Crossroads: Preventing, Detecting, and Diagnosing Animal Diseases finds that, in general, the U.S. animal health framework has been slow to take advantage of state-of-the-art technologies being used now to protect public health; better diagnostic tests for identifying all animal diseases should be made a priority. The report also recommends that the nation establish a high-level, authoritative, and accountable coordinating mechanism to engage and enhance partnerships among local, state, and federal agencies, and the private sector.

Key Messages

  • Efforts to develop and validate diagnostic assays and advanced vaccines of a recognized pathogen need to occur more rapidly.
  • Greater collaboration between public health and animal health officials can accelerate the detection and diagnosis of animal diseases.
  • The broad capabilities that exist in universities, industry, state entities, veterinary diagnostic laboratories, and other local animal health infrastructure are underutilized.
  • The framework for animal health lacks adequate systems and tools for analyzing and managing risk, and planning for outbreaks.
  • The lack of collaboration between the biomedical and veterinary communities is a lost opportunity that impedes the effectiveness of the framework.
  • The past success of international collaboration in responding to animal disease demonstrates its importance in addressing animal diseases.
  • The workforce on the front lines of animal care is not adequately educated and trained to deal with animal disease issues, and there is a shortage of veterinarians in the workforce for animal disease prevention, detection, and diagnosis.
  • There is a need for state-of-the-art equipment and biocontainment facilities for both research and diagnostics. Federal, state, and private entities responsible for animal health have different authorities, and there are gaps in that authority, particularly in relation to wildlife disease.