In her overview of the global animal disease situation, Dr. Mariela Varas from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) described how the OIE functions and updated the Conference on global developments of the situation for six diseases: influenza A/H1N1 in swine, avian influenza H5N1, bluetongue, rinderpest, PRP (peste des petits ruminants), and foot-and-mouth disease. She also spoke about how OIE is addressing the challenges of climate change.
Concerning influenza A/H1NI, Dr. Varas noted the OIE statement of April 2009 on the so-called “swine flu” saying that this was a human illness caused by a novel strain of Influenza A/ H1N1 first reported from Mexico and the United States. As cases of human infection with this virus have been notified on all continents, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared an influenza global pandemic. This virus should not be called “swine flu” since there is no evidence that animals are playing any role in the spread of this virus. The H1N1 virus seems to have been transmitted from humans to pigs in Canada and Argentina.
Concerning avian influenza (H5N1), Dr. Varas reported that there has been a decline in both the number of affected countries and the number of notified outbreaks since 2007. For bluetonge, BT 8 and 1 have become endemic in many countries in Europe; vaccination has allowed a better control of the disease especially during vectors activities. In the case of rinderpest, there have been no cases reported to the OIE since 2001. PRP has spread over the last 12 years, said Dr. Varas, infecting large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Finally foot-and-mouth disease is still a of concern to many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East as well as a few countries in the northern part of South America. The introduction of new serotypes adds difficulties to control the disease.
Dr. Varas concluded her presentation by saying that OIE would set up an ad-hoc group to review existing standards and develop guidelines to deal with the effects of climate change on the animal disease situation. OIE members are very concerned, she said, about the likely impact on emerging and re-emerging animal diseases of both climate and environmental change in the context of globalization.