Human beings, animals and their surrounding environment are intertwined in a complex ecosystem. Each component in this ecosystem interacts with each other and is indispensable to maintain ecological balance. Imbalance in any components causes disturbance in the ecosystem with notorious ramifications for the others.
Zoonotic disease or zoonosis is one of the major ramifications of careless human activities which disturb the delicate balance of the ecosystem. Zoonosis is a type of contagious disease that originates from a virus that transmits from an animal to a human host.
According to the World Health Organisation "A zoonosis is an infectious disease that has jumped from a non-human animal to humans". The zoonotic pathogen may be bacterial, viral or parasitic, or an unconventional agent that may spread from water, food, and the environment.
Since Louis Pasteur first invented the vaccine against rabies in 1885, 6 July each year has been observed as the World Zoonoses Day to spread awareness regarding the zoonotic diseases.
There are over 200 known types of zoonotic disease. Some of the more recent examples are Ebola, MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), Rabies, Salmonella infection, Q Fever (Coxiella burnetii), Anthrax, Brucellosis, Lyme disease, Ringworm, Ebola, West Nile Fever, Rift Valley Fever, and obviously, Covid-19.
All these diseases have taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Most of the great pandemics in history were caused by zoonotic diseases. And we all know how the Covid-19 took millions of lives and affected the livelihood of billions of people around the world. But these diseases are more common now than ever. But why?
The rising trend of zoonoses is mainly driven by deforestation and excessive land degradation which are forcing animals to live close to human habitats and come in regular contact with them. On top of that, excessive use of underground water, wildlife trafficking, excessive extraction of natural resources, climate change, water pollution, and food contamination are also giving rise to zoonoses.
Zoonotic diseases often break out from the mutual contact between humans and animals and these diseases are responsible for 2.7 million deaths worldwide each year. To make things worse, Covid-19 has changed the statistics and the death toll is rising as time goes up.
Hence, it is high time to mitigate the deplorable circumstances that give rise to zoonotic disease. Reduction in zoonotic disease will automatically lessen the chances of pandemics like Covid-19. To break the chain of zoonoses, different sorts of approaches have been applied for decades. But there is an effective way to reduce the outbreak of zoonotic disease which is known as 'one health approach'.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the USA defines the One Health approach as a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach- working at the local, regional, national, and global levels- to achieve optimal health outcomes recognising the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.
This approach is designed to control two important issues namely food safety and zoonotic disease. One health approach is attaining popularity globally as an effective way to fight health issues at the human-environment-animal interface, especially zoonotic disease.
Experts from multidisciplinary sectors such as human health (doctors, nurses, public health practitioners, epidemiologists), plant health, animal health (veterinarians, paraprofessionals, agricultural workers), and the environment (ecologists, wildlife experts) need to communicate, collaborate and cooperate to implement one health approach.
Other relevant players such as law enforcement, policymakers, agriculture, communities should be included in the one health team. Coordinating activities among all groups can bring the best health outcomes for the animal, human, and environment
One health approach is composed of some specific recommendations to retard the transmission of future zoonotic disease. It will also lessen the chances of pandemics like Covid-19. The recommendations are as follows-
Formation of 'one health approach' committee
'One health approach' is a multidisciplinary task that needs to connect a group of people from diversified backgrounds under one umbrella to ensure the best health outcomes of human, animal, and environment.
Forming such a committee will pave the way to ensure the outcome-based result. To strengthen the workflow of this multidisciplinary committee, a larger amount of investment is indispensable. The authorities should invest more and more to accelerate and implement 'one health approach' in Bangladesh. Hope it will bring a positive change towards the era of zoonoses.
Expanding scientific inquiry into zoonotic disease
Lots of scientific studies are needed to prevent the transmission of zoonotic disease as it is difficult to trace. This process will help to explore the hidden era of zoonotic disease which is necessary for either epidemiology or vaccine invention.
Raising awareness among mass people
Amid Covid-19 we can understand the value of awareness building. To contain the transmission of zoonotic disease we should raise awareness among the mass people at the root level. It is the best tool to prevent infectious diseases. On the other hand, animals cause zoonotic disease so it's important to maintain safety precautions while in close contact with the animal.
Develop an alternative and sustainable plan for food security and livelihoods
Developing an alternative and sustainable plan for ensuring food security and livelihoods that don't need to destroy habitat, forests, and biodiversity.
Biosecurity and control
Improving biosecurity and control in animal husbandry can obstruct the passage of pathogens from animal to human. Sustainable management is essential to ensure co-existence between agriculture and wildlife.
Implementation of a 'one health approach' is vital for preventing zoonotic diseases. To prevent pandemic and endemic, all the low and middle-income countries should enact the 'one health approach'. It will cut down the economic and other losses. Adopt 'one health approach', diminish the power of emerging pandemics.
Md Billal Hossen is a postgraduate student at the Department of Applied Nutrition and Food Technology, Islamic University, Bangladesh. He can be reached at email@example.com
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.