The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance ofbiosecurity and the very real threat that zoonotic diseases pose to people. Azoonotic disease refers to any disease or infection that can naturally spreadfrom animals to humans.

As the leaders in animal health and welfare, veterinarians play an importantrole in maintaining Australia’s biosecurity and public health through helpingto manage biosecurity on farms, and working to detect and manage zoonoticdiseases in animals, reducing the opportunity for zoonotic diseases to spreadto humans.

Through the use of technology such as the BIOCHECK® program, veterinarianswork closely with farmers to develop a biosecurity plan to ensure that theirfarm has considered the major biosecurity risks and has the appropriate riskmanagement strategies in place to minimise these risks. Veterinarians alsowork to prevent and control animal diseases on farms, which is vital in thefight against antimicrobial resistance and prevention of zoonotic diseaseoutbreaks.

The BIOCHECK® program was developed by the Australian Cattle Veterinarians – aspecial interest group of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA).Examples of zoonotic diseases include Hendra virus, Q Fever and Leptospirosis.

Hendra virus was first identified in a large outbreak of a highly lethaldisease in racehorses in 1994. Spread by flying foxes, the virus ispotentially fatal to both horses and people. Since 2012 a safe and highlyeffective horse vaccine has been available to reduce the risk of Hendra virusinfection.

Q Fever is a disease caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetti , which canbe associated with many animal species, including cattle, sheep and goats,with the disease causing a flu-like illness in humans. There is a humanvaccine for Q Fever and veterinary professionals are often vaccinated againstit due to their high risk of exposure during their work.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease caused by the Leptospira bacteria whichcan affect both animals and humans. Dogs can be affected, particularly if theyhave frequent contact with farm animals, rodents, wild animals or if theyfrequent water sources contaminated by animal urine. Based on the geographiclocation, environment and lifestyle of the dog, veterinarians may sometimesrecommend dogs be protected with administration of a Leptospirosis vaccinationif appropriate.

Veterinarians are involved in many biosecurity and public health activitiesworking to detect, manage and prevent zoonotic diseases which could impactboth animals and humans. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affectcountries around the globe, the pandemic highlights the risk that zoonoticdiseases can pose to humans, and the importance of the biosecurity workveterinarians undertake every day.

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