Calling animal disease a “weak link” in global efforts to combat disease, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) called for sustained monitoring of animal diseases, particularly those that can cross species barriers to infect humans.

The authors note that an earlier FAO report estimates 70 percent of new infectious human diseases detected in recent decades are of animal origin. They also cite the recent Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, which is believed to have crossed over from wildlife to human populations.

Speaking at a meeting on the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) in Jakarta, Indonesia this week, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth said: "Zoonootic diseases that can make the jump from animals to humans are a real concern, but there is much that we can do before the jump occurs and outbreaks take place, causing loss of life and disrupting fragile livelihoods.”

According to FAO, the international community must provide global health support, with a new focus on investment in infrastructure, systems and capacities at the national level to help reduce the risks of such emergencies happening in the first place and increase the resilience of communities and health systems to respond when they do.

At the Jakarta conference, the FAO, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), nd the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and representatives of 60 countries are discussing how to collaborate under the auspices of the GHSA to strengthen health systems to help prevent, detect and respond to emerging disease threats. These organizations focus on the "One Health" approach, which looks at the interplay between environmental factors, animal health, and human health and brings human health professionals, veterinary specialists, sociologists, economists, and ecologists together to work on disease risks in a collaborative way.
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