CURRENT POLICY NEEDS IN THE EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF TRANSBOUNDARY ANIMAL DEISEASES
IN THE ASIAN PACIFIC REGION
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)
Tokyo 113-8657, Japan
The OIE, the intergovernmental organization established in 1924, is responsible for improving animal health and welfare worldwide to facilitate safe international trade of animals and animal products. It does this while avoiding unnecessary impediments to trade. OIE, as a WTO reference organization, works to set and update its international standards (OIE Codes and Manuals) regularly through transparent and democratic procedures. The OIE Regional Representation in Tokyo, Japan and Sub-regional Representation in Bangkok, Thailand, are working to provide regionally adapted services to OIE Members so that they may strengthen the surveillance and control of animal diseases in the region. The overall vision of the OIE can be summarized by its slogan "Protect animals and Preserve our Future.
Keywords: World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), Transboundary Animal Disease (TAD), GF-TADs, One Health
The OIE was created in 1924 by 28 countries, and thus predates the United Nations (OIE 2016g). The founding countries wished to implement an international agreement that would enable them to work together to try to put an end to the epizootics that were devastating their livestock. In particular, they sought an undertaking from infected countries to inform the others in case of an important sanitary event, thereby enabling them to take protective action. They also wished to have information on the most effective methods of controlling the most dangerous animal diseases.
Today, these objectives of sanitary and scientific information in the veterinary field are still among the priority missions of the organization, both for diseases solely affecting animals and also those transmissible to humans.
In 1994, the Agreements that led to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) included specific measures on the management of sanitary and phytosanitary problems (SPS Agreements) relating to the risks posed by trade in animals and animal products (OIE 2016h). The standards, guidelines and recommendations issued by the OIE were designated as the international reference in the field of animal diseases and zoonotic diseases.
The OIE currently has a total of 180 Member Countries. It maintains permanent relations with 71 other international and regional organizations (OIE 2016a) and has Regional and sub-regional Offices on every continent, including Regional Representation for Asia and the Pacific (RR AP) in Tokyo, Japan and Sub-regional Representation for South East Asia (SRR SEA) in Bangkok, Thailand.
MISSION OF OIE
Nowadays, through the effects of globalization, infectious diseases can often spread at lightning speed. The 60% of the pathogens that affect humans are of animal origin (OIE 2016d). Effective surveillance, enabling early detection of these diseases at their source in animals, is therefore crucial so that they can be quickly controlled, thereby protecting animal and human populations. Since its creation, one of the OIE’s historic missions has been to ensure transparency and improve knowledge of the global animal disease situation, including zoonotic diseases. This mission is fulfilled on a daily basis thanks to a unique tool, the OIE World Animal Health Information System, better known as WAHIS (OIE 2016q).
The WAHIS is an internet-based computer system that processes data on animal diseases in real-time and then informs the international community. Access to this secure site is only available to authorized users, namely the Delegates of OIE Member Countries and their authorized representatives, who use WAHIS to notify the OIE of relevant animal disease information. The system consists of two components, namely, an early warning system and a monitoring system.
The early warning system
Whenever an important epidemiological event occurs in a Member Country, the Member Country must inform the OIE by sending an Immediate Notification (terrestrial and aquatic animals) which includes the reason for the notification, the name of the disease, the affected species, the geographical area affected, the control measures applied and any laboratory tests carried out or in progress.
Once they have been received, verified and validated by the OIE, the immediate notifications are published in the OIE Web site under the heading Alerts and sent to everyone on the OIE-Info Distribution List, an electronic distribution list that was set up to facilitate and widen the dissemination of animal health information.
After having informed the OIE of an immediate notification report, the Member must send weekly Follow-up Reports so that the event can be monitored as it evolves. In all cases, the country must submit a final report to notify either that the event has been resolved or that the disease has become endemic. In both cases, the country will continue to submit information in its six-monthly reports if the disease is on the OIE List (OIE 2016q).
The monitoring system
Six-monthly Reports (terrestrial and aquatic animals) provide information on the presence or absence of diseases on the OIE List and the prevention and control measures applied. In 2009, a new possibility has been added to differentiate, when relevant, between domestic and wild species using different occurrence codes. This change is an important step forward to improve transparency and the knowledge of the animal health situation worldwide in domestic and wild species, without necessarily putting unjustified trade barriers against countries that notify diseases only in wild animals. For diseases reported as being present in a country/territory during a given six-month period, the country/territory in question must provide quantitative data on the number of outbreaks, susceptible animals, cases, deaths, animals destroyed and animals vaccinated. For diseases that are present and are notifiable in the country, the OIE recommends that countries provide quantitative data by month and by first administrative division.
Annual Reports: the two six-monthly reports of a given year are combined as part of the annual report for OIE-listed diseases. Moreover and in cooperation with the WHO and the FAO, Member Countries are asked to complete it once a year with information on non OIE-listed diseases, the impact of zoonotic diseases on humans, animal populations, the Veterinary Services personnel, national reference laboratories and their performed diagnostic tests, and, when appropriate, vaccine manufacturers and vaccine production.
In the current trend of globalization, animal health measures have increasing importance to facilitate safe international trade of animals and animal products while avoiding unnecessary impediments to trade. In light of this, the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) recognizes the OIE as the reference organization for standards relating to animal health and zoonotic diseases under the World Trade Organization (WTO) and encourages the WTO members to base their sanitary measures on international standards, guidelines and recommendations, where they exist (OIE 2016h).
The OIE’s international standards are prepared and updated by the OIE's Specialist Commissions, which use current scientific information to study problems of epidemiology, prevention and control of animal diseases and develop or revise OIE's international standards to address scientific and technical issues raised by Members (OIE 2016p).
Four Specialist Commissions are established, namely, the Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Commission ("Terrestrial Code Commission"), the Scientific Commission for Animal Diseases ("Scientific Commission"), the Biological Standards Commission ("Laboratories Commission") and the Aquatic Animal Health Standards Commission (Aquatic Animals Commission). Each Specialist Commission comprises of six members, who are elected by OIE Delegates for three years taking into account the expertise and regional balance, among others (OIE 2016p).
The OIE is continuing to improve the transparency of its standard development process, in order to have the best scientific basis for its standards and to gain their widest possible support. All reports from OIE Specialist Commissions are published on the OIE public website and incorporate as appendices the accepted reports from relevant OIE working groups and ad hoc groups. The views of OIE National Delegates are routinely sought through the twice yearly circulation of new or revised texts. Member Countries are strongly encouraged to get involved more actively in the OIE standard setting process as such. The OIE does not solicit comments on these reports other than from Delegates, but will not refuse comments from organizations with an interest in the OIE's work, as they often represent a very useful source of information (OIE 2016p). The only pathway for adoption of a standard is via approval of the World Assembly of Delegates meeting in May each year at the OIE General Assembly (OIE 2016h).
The OIE publishes 2 codes (Terrestrial and Aquatic) and 2 manuals (Terrestrial and Aquatic) as the principle reference for WTO members (OIE 2016h). These standards are designed to prevent and control animal diseases, including zoonotic diseases, ensure the sanitary safety of world trade in terrestrial and aquatic animals and animal products, and improve animal welfare, without setting up unjustified sanitary barriers.
The Terrestrial Animal Health Code and Aquatic Animal Health Code respectively aim to assure the sanitary safety of international trade in terrestrial animals and aquatic animals, and their products (OIE 2016h). The Terrestrial Animal Health Code was first published in 1968 and the Aquatic Animal Health Code was introduced to the public in 1995. The codes traditionally addressed animal health and zoonotic diseases, but they have, in recent years, expanded to cover animal welfare, animal production food safety, consistent with the expanded mandate of the OIE which is ‘to improve animal health worldwide’. The Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals and the Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals provide a harmonized approach to disease diagnosis by describing internationally agreed laboratory diagnostic techniques (OIE 2016h). These codes and manuals are all available online.
The OIE collects and analyzes the latest scientific information on prevention and control of animal diseases. This information is then made available to Member Countries so that they can apply the most effective methods. The work of the OIE is supported by a worldwide network of expertise that has expanded and consolidated over the years. The regular increase in national Focal Points and OIE Reference Centers, the permanent exchange of information and the constant strengthening of the scientific and technical competencies of the members of this network all help to ensure the scientific excellence of the OIE worldwide.
An OIE Reference Centre is designated (OIE 2016m) either as:
The network of Collaborating Centers and Reference Laboratories constitutes the core of OIE scientific expertise and excellence. The ongoing contribution of these institutes to the work of the OIE ensures that the standards, guidelines and recommendations developed by the Specialist Commissions and published by the OIE are scientifically sound and up-to-date (OIE 2016m).
In 2016, the OIE has global network of 260 Reference Laboratories covering 119 diseases or topics in 39 countries, and 51 Collaborating Centers covering 46 topics in 26 countries (OIE 2016n). In Asia and the Pacific, there are 48 Reference Laboratories covering 8 diseases in 8 countries and 11 Collaborating Centers covering 11 topics in 5 countries (OIE 2016c, 2016n).
The expertise and scientific collaborations is also built with other counterparts such FAO-UN. A joint worldwide networks of expertise on avian influenza (OFFLU) was launched by the OIE and FAO-UN in 2005(OIE 2016i). In 2009, this collaboration work was expanded in 2009 to include all influenza- to support veterinary services in their efforts to reduce risks to animal and public health from animal influenza viruses. The outcomes of OFFLU’s activities on supporting veterinary services (OIE and FAO 2014) are:
The OIE supports its Member Countries and helps them strengthen and improve the structure of their national animal health systems in line with the Organization’s intergovernmental standards, notably by acting on the quality of the national Veterinary Services, diagnostic laboratories and veterinary education (OIE 2016o).
To help developing and emerging countries deal effectively with health threats, the OIE provides support through a range of programs, notably within the framework of the PVS (Performance of Veterinary Services) Pathway, aimed at consolidating national animal health systems by providing customized assistance (OIE 2016k).
The OIE provides technical support to Member Countries requesting assistance with animal disease control and eradication operations, including diseases transmissible to humans (OIE 2016l). The OIE notably offers expertise to the poorest countries to help them control animal diseases that cause livestock losses, present a risk to public health and threaten other Member Countries. The OIE has a permanent contact to international regional and national financial organizations in order to convince them to invest more and better on the control of animal diseases and zoonotic diseases.
GLOBAL AND REGIONAL ACTIVITIES
The Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADs), launched in 2004 is a joint FAO/OIE initiative to establish a global and regional framework for the fight against transboundary animal diseases (FAO and OIE 2013). GF-TADs is a coordinating mechanism, not an implementing one and is a critical and the only available global framework in promoting synergies in approaches to control and prevention of TADs and other Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs) among international agencies and avoiding contradictions and duplications in policy and programs. The initiative is built on experiences in the past showing that progress in controlling TADs at country level is not likely to be successful and sustainable unless the efforts are part of a coordinated regional and global approach / embedded into supra-national frameworks.
In the past decades, tireless efforts were dedicated to control and eradicate TADs at global, regional and country levels. Some of major activities conducted under the GF-TADs framework includes:
OIE RR AP is serving as the Permanent Secretariat for the Regional Steering Committee for Asia and the Pacific since 2005 and has organized, in collaboration with FAO Regional Representation for Asia, the Regional Steering Committee meeting annually or bi-annually as well as the Sub-regional meeting of GF-TADs for ASEAN, SAARC and SPC less frequently. Regional GF-TADs aims on the prevention and control of main TADs in Asia and the Pacific, such as HPAI and FMD, by strengthening disease control mechanism including epidemiological functions and strengthening capacity building on legislation and on laboratory diagnosis (OIE 2016j).
In the current 5-year Action Plan for the period 2012-2016 of the Regional GF-TADs for Asia and the Pacific (FAO and OIE 2013), priority diseases for ASEAN and SAARC were defined, namely, HPAI, FMD, CSF and Rabies for ASEAN and HPAI, FMD, PPR and Rabies for SAARC, while SPC has no such diseases and engages with the preventive measures only at this stage. Thanks to the support of development partners and donors, notably by the European Union and Asian Development Bank, the Regional Supporting Unit, the Epidemiology and Laboratory Network, the Leading Laboratories, as well as regional strategies for priority diseases in ASEAN and SAARC which has been established and strengthened during last decade and are expected to be further enhanced in each region.
While there is no established Regional Supporting Unit for the East Asia so far, collaboration among countries and territories in the region has been enhanced under the OIE/ Japan Trust Fund Project and the Roadmap for FMD Control in East Asia has been adopted in 2013.
Based on the experiences of Global and Regional GF-TADs for more than past ten years, further strengthening the mechanism of GF-TADs are envisaged, including Key Performance Indicators, GF-TADs labeling, revision of priority diseases, etc.
Within the framework of the Tripartite Alliance, FAO, the OIE and WHO recognize their respective responsibilities in fighting diseases, including zoonoses, that can have a serious health and economic impact. They have been working together for numerous years to prevent, detect, control and eliminate disease risks to humans originating directly or indirectly from animals. In 2010, the FAO/OIE/WHO Tripartite Concept Note (April 2010) officially recognized this close collaboration, with joint strategies at the human-animal-environment interface, to support their Member Countries.
Three priority areas of work were defined: zoonotic influenzas, rabies and the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR), some of highlights of them are:
As a part of the Tripartite coordination mechanism in the Asia-Pacific Region, annual regional workshops have been organized to review progress in prevention and control of zoonotic diseases and to define the way forward to further strengthen multi-sectoral coordination and collaboration. Since 2010, five regional workshops have been organized to advance zoonotic diseases control and prevention. The workshops provided opportunity for member countries in the region to update each other on the progress made in establishing a functional multi-sectoral coordination mechanism, in implementing prevention and control of zoonotic diseases at country level, and in sharing their experiences including problems and constraints encountered.
OIE RR AP is conducting the JTF Project on Controlling Zoonotic Diseases in Asia since 2013, under which various regional activities targeting rabies, HPAI and other zoonotic diseases have been implemented.
Good governance of animal health systems based on a close public/private partnership is the responsibility of all governments. If one country fails, it may endanger its neighboring countries, the region, the continent and potentially the entire planet. The OIE considers the Veterinary Services as a Global Public Good and their bringing into line with international standards (structure, organization, resources, capacities, role of paraprofessionals) as a public investment priority (OIE 2016k).
The OIE “Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS)” Pathway is a global program for the sustainable improvement of a country's Veterinary Services' compliance with OIE standards on the quality of Veterinary Services. It is a comprehensive measurement and evaluation system that is an effective and internationally recognized foundation for improving animal and public health at the national, regional and international levels (OIE 2016k). Furthermore, it is a voluntary process that involves;
In Asia and the Pacific region, 24 out of 32 members have already conducted the PVS Evaluation and 15 did the PVS Gap Analysis. In some member countries, the findings appeared in the PVS mission reports and were shared among the relevant departments in the government and successfully used as a tool to raise awareness of policy makers on the importance and urgency for strengthening the capacity of veterinary services. The training seminar on the OIE PVS Tool for East Asia was held in Seoul, RO Korea in April 2016 (OIE 2016f), inviting PR China, Japan, RO Korea and Chinese Taipei. This seminar aimed to provide a better understanding of the PVS Pathway and more specifically the OIE PVS Tool to participating countries/territory.
Regional capacity building programs for OIE Members’ Veterinary Services are established annually. Such programs aim to strengthen animal disease surveillance and control, early outbreak detection and rapid response to both regional and national levels. This also facilitates networking between Country Delegates to the OIE and OIE National Focal Points (OIE 2016b).
OIE RR AP and SRR SEA organize on average between two and four regional seminars per region and per year to maintain continuing information and education, and capacity building of Country Delegates to the OIE and OIE National Focal Points in the country (contact persons for relations with the OIE) specialized in the different relevant technical fields (OIE 2016b).
Through its expertise and the training it provides for senior officials, namely the OIE Delegates and their national Focal Points specialized in 8 key fields, the OIE helps Members, at their own request, to improve their sanitary governance and better define and implement animal disease control and eradication programs. The following key issues are addressed through these regional seminars: the rights and obligations of the National Delegates to the OIE, the structure and quality of National Veterinary Services, the implementation of animal health standards; sanitary information systems; animal production food safety; veterinary medicinal and biological products; aquatic animal diseases; animal welfare; wildlife, veterinary service communication and laboratories (OIE 2016e).
Veterinary education and legislation are important fields of action for the OIE: its winning programs help to improve the capacities and competencies of institutions in developing and transition countries (laboratories, veterinary schools and Veterinary Statutory Bodies).
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