Human and animal health, food safety and biosecurity |


Curtis R Young from Iowa State University Examines Relationship Between Human and Animal Health in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic, Including Commentary on Food System and Biosecurity Programs

Biosecurity. This single word invokes a wide range of thoughts among members of society. For some, it brings visions of an apocalyptic film where a virology research lab is violated by unsavory individuals who subsequently unleash a new plague on humanity. For others, it stimulates thoughts of calm and security – knowing that strict safety protocols and measures are in place to guard against the unintentional release of dangerous biological agents that harm humans, plants or animals. . For still others, especially those engaged in the production of animal foods, it is reminiscent of a set of routine actions practiced regularly to protect not only the health and welfare of livestock, but also the integrity of a large part of the human diet.

Impacts of COVID-19

The devastating and continuing impacts of COVID-19 have undoubtedly been felt around the world. Even among those with little experience or interest in biology, the emergence in 2019 of a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that created a human health pandemic has catapulted biological subjects such as virus, immunology and messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) in normal / everyday discussions. There is still a lot to scientifically learn about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes (COVID-19), such as the precise origin of the virus, the range of mammalian species it can infect, and persistence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody resulting from vaccination; however, one point is quite clear: the world has been changed forever.

Many people believe SARS-CoV-2 has gone from pandemic to endemic, which means the virus (and the disease it causes) is here to stay. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen; however, there have been some bright spots that have resulted from this pandemic. Many workers can now work from home, reducing their time spent commuting and reducing the negative environmental impact of commuting. Businesses and educational institutions have learned a more cost-effective and often less time-consuming method of fulfilling their missions: videoconferencing. New applications of science to vaccine development have emerged. Government agencies have re-examined the vaccine approval process. Ordinary citizens have come to realize that animal health and human health are closely linked.

COVID-19: Human and animal health

Within the scientific community, it has been known for many decades that human health and animal health are not independent of each other. Calvin Schwabe is often credited with more or less defining the concept of “One Health” in 1984, in the hope of gaining greater recognition and understanding within the scientific community and the general population. whereas a global vision of human health cannot and must not ignore animal health. . The concept of “One Health” was broadened to include environmental health and non-domestic animal health (i.e. wildlife, including those managed in zoos), clearly emphasizing the interdependence of life on the earth.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the “One Health” concept in the spotlight. The detection of COVID-19 in pets and wildlife has illustrated the need for a holistic and collaborative approach to human, animal, plant and environmental health. Many weaknesses in the human food system were exposed during the pandemic. Serious disruptions in food supply chains, ranging from transportation breakdowns to slaughterhouse shutdowns due to worker illnesses, have led to empty shelves in many grocery stores. Significant closures of restaurants and foodservice industries have resulted in a build-up of surplus products in warehouses, an extremely problematic perishable food issue. In some cases, vegetable fields have been plowed and milk has been spilled on the ground. Unemployment has skyrocketed, affecting the ability of many families to purchase food while dramatically increasing pressure on pantries.

The food system and biosecurity programs

The previously undocumented fragility of the human food system that was revealed during the pandemic has caused those engaged in animal agriculture to take a closer look at the societal impacts of a possible animal health pandemic. This has led to a further examination of biosecurity practices – practices designed to prevent pathogenic organisms from inflicting harm on animals, people, the human food supply, and the environment. Well-designed biosecurity programs address not only the design and functionality of the structures in which animals are raised, but also the practices and procedures followed by those who care for the animals.

Many citizens keep their pets (dogs and cats) healthy and safe by vaccinating them against pathogenic organisms, feeding them properly and keeping them in a regulated environment where temperature, humidity and exposure to the environment are controlled. However, despite the best efforts of these pet owners, sometimes their pets get sick. Sometimes pet owners also get sick from a disease carried by their pets. Zoonoses are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans.

The same is true for many species of farm animals such as poultry and pigs. Despite widespread vaccination, isolation (quarantine) of infected individuals, and breeding in a controlled environment, some farm animals become ill. A difference perhaps between pets and farm animals is that certain species of farm animals are raised at a higher animal density. This increased number of animals in a given space can lead to an increased likelihood of disease transmission between animals when a disease appears. It is for this reason that well-designed and implemented biosecurity measures are very important. Another difference is that some farm animals contribute food of animal origin to the human diet, which directly affects human health and well-being.

Some common elements are included in most biosecurity plans, such as limiting human and animal movement in and out of the environment where animals are being kept and wearing clean clothing and personal protective items such as disposable boots and coveralls. These biosecurity practices are generally implemented at the individual farm level and, if applied correctly, are very effective. Yet the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, which caused significant bird health problems five to six years ago, has underscored the need to consider larger-scale biosecurity measures. For many countries, this broader perspective falls within the remit of the national government.

Animal health inspection service for plants (APHIS)

In the United States (US), a division of the United States Department of Agriculture called the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has been responsible since 1972 for protecting the health of agriculture and natural resources. United States against invasive pests and diseases. APHIS staff work with governments of other countries, the World Organization for Animal Health (more commonly known as the OIE) and universities to use the latest scientific evidence to develop and implement policy and procedures to protect and improve the health, quality and marketing of animals and animal products.

In collaboration with entities such as the Center for Food Safety and Public Health at Iowa State University, APHIS is helping develop plans to reduce the likelihood of an outbreak of an exotic animal disease, such as plague. African swine, on American soil. It also helps develop emergency preparedness plans that outline how federal and state animal health officials can work with livestock producers and others to contain the spread of a pathogen that causes disease. with the animals. The work of APHIS and its collaborators protects animal health, human health and the food supply for humans.

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© 2019. This work is under license CC-BY-NC-ND.

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Boyd S. Abbott