Veterinary visits to become mandatory in European farming

By Miroslav Djuric, DVM, CAB International, Wallingford, UK

The European Agriculture Council has formally approved a draft law on animal diseases that are transmissible among animals and potentially to humans (zoonoses).

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The provisions in the law on farm animal health visits stipulate that professional animal owners are to receive regular animal health visits from a veterinarian for disease prevention, detection and biosecurity. This new piece of legislation aims to merge and update existing scattered directives and regulations into a single and coherent law.

It is announced as an important step forward, since visits by vets are the cornerstone of the ‘prevention is better than cure’ strategy and indispensable for the prevention and early detection of known and emerging transmissible diseases. The role of the veterinarian in achieving this is defined and highlighted. The veterinary profession also has an active part to play in raising awareness of animal health and of One Health, or the interaction between animal health, animal welfare and public health.

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Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) Targeted for Eradication

By Miroslav Djuric, DVM

Following the successful eradication of Rinderpest (Cattle plague, see blog), veterinarians, farmers and donors across the World are turning their focus to combat Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) on a global scale. The FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) have developed a detailed strategy for FMD control under the umbrella of their Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADs). However, it is clear that only a massive commitment of national and international resources can make FMD eradication possible, as surveillance and monitoring over a long period is required.

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FMD is a highly infectious disease caused by a picornavirus, which affects cloven-hoofed animals, in particular cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and deer. Other animals including camelids and elephants can also be affected. The disease is notifiable, which means that the local veterinary services must be notified immediately if FMD is suspected.Although FMD does not pose a direct threat to human health, and is rarely fatal in animals, it can cause reduced milk yield, weight loss and lower fertility.

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Veterinarians Target Next Virus for Eradication

 
Following the recent eradication of rinderpest virus in cattle (see blog), the veterinary profession is contemplating which viral disease of animals should be targeted for eradication next. This is not an easy task considering the vast number of viral diseases that plague livestock animals and have devastating effects on animal health, public health and people’s livelihoods.

Sheep

According to the authors of a scientific editorial (1) and a review article (2) that appeared in the recent issue of Veterinary Record published on 1st July 2011, the next livestock virus targeted for eradication could be peste des petits ruminants (PPR) virus.

Dr Michael Baron and colleagues from the Institute for Animal Health (IAH), Pirbright, UK said in their review that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) should focus on PPR virus as the next livestock virus for eradication.

PPR virus affects sheep and goats and is closely related to the recently eradicated rinderpest virus. Cattle can also be infected with PPR virus but they do not show obvious signs of disease. PPR is circulating on the edges of the European Union, on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. Outbreaks were reported in Morocco and Tunisia in 2008 and there is evidence for its presence in Algerian sheep this year. It has also been present in Turkey for many years. PPR is the fastest growing and one of the most economically important diseases of sheep and goats, the animals that play a very important role in sustainable agriculture and development in Africa and Asia. Mortality in infected animals ranges from 10 to 90%, depending on age, breed and secondary infectious agents. Animals that survive become anorexic, their milk yield is reduced, and they are susceptible to secondary infections and abortions.

Baron and colleagues are already working on the development of a “smart” vaccine for PPR, one that leaves an antibody signature different from that created by infection with the virulent virus, so that vaccinated animals can be distinguished from animals that have been infected by virulent virus, and vice versa. They are also working on a "dip stick" test for PPR virus, similar to the one that IAH developed for the rinderpest eradication programme.

There are good reasons to believe that the eradication of PPR is an achievable goal, because the PPR virus shares a number of properties with rinderpest virus that contributed to the successful campaign to eradicate the latter, i.e. there is a safe and reliable vaccine; simple and effective diagnostic tests are available; the virus has a short infectious period, with no carrier/persistent state; transmission occurs only by close contact; and there is an economic incentive to eradicate it.

However, before a massive commitment of national and international resources for a successful eradication campaign, which would require surveillance and monitoring over a long period, a thorough evaluation of the likelihood of success of an eradication campaign, as well as its costs and benefits, is of utmost importance. Potential for eradication of other diseases such as foot and mouth disease (FMD) or rabies virus, for example, also needs to be evaluated.

CAB Direct database offers an excellent source of scientific information and is a very useful tool for evaluating potential for eradication of any viral disease of animals. It comprehensively covers world’s scientific literature from over 150 countries and in over 50 languages on all the viral diseases of animals, including PPR, FMD and rabies. CAB Direct database contains over 17000 records on rabies, over 13000 records on foot-and mouth disease and over 800 records on peste des petits ruminants.

References:

1. Anderson J., Baron MD., Cameron A., Kock R., Jones B., Pfeiffer D., Mariner J., McKeever D., Oura, CAL., Roeder P., Rossiter P. and Taylor W. (2011): Rinderpest eradicated – what next? Veterinary Record, 169: 10-11, doi: 10.1136/vr.d4011.

2. Baron MD., Parida S. and Oura CAL. (2011). Peste des petits ruminants: a suitable case for eradication? Veterinary Record, 169: 16-21 doi: 10.1136/vr.d3947.

Veterinary Medical Profession Is Preparing to Celebrate its 250th Anniversary

The world's first veterinary school was officially established 249 years ago in Lyon, France in 1761.  

The slogan for World veterinary anniversary is "Vet for health, Vet for food, Vet for the Planet!" suggested by Dr Jacques Bruhlet of the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing. Even without mentioning animals, this particular slogan reveals so much to professional veterinarians about their role in human health (who invented slogans, anyway?).

Event highlights include an opening ceremony in Versailles, France, organized by the French Veterinary Academy and the National Veterinary School of Alfort on 24 January 2011. The second World Conference on Veterinary Education is scheduled for 12 to 16 May in Lyon. Another ceremony will be held in conjunction with the 30th World Veterinary Congress in Cape Town, South Africa from 10 to 14 October 2011.

Veterinary organizations from 78 countries have already confirmed to observe the 2011 milestone with special events throughout the year. Te European Commission, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) have also signed on to highlight the many achievements of veterinarians in protecting human health and advancing veterinary medicine over the past 250 years.

CAB International will undoubtedly continue to support the international veterinary community, as it has been doing for the past 100 years (yes, it is CABI's 100th anniversary this year), through providing scientific information to both veterinary academics and practitioners. 

To learn more about Vet 2011, visit www.vet2011.org/index.php

The First European Veterinary Week, 10-16 November 2008

European vets are gearing up for their first veterinary week, which will be held from 10-16 November in various locations across Europe. This is a joint initiative organised by the European Commission and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE). The organising team is also supported by an advisory group of stakeholders (farmers’ organizations, industry and other stakeholders) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The initiative is aimed at promoting the Community Animal Health Strategy,  "Prevention is better than cure", as well as the "One Health" concept. It will also focus on biosecurity, and in particular biosecurity on farms and at country borders.

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Changes in the veterinary profession.

Think of a veterinarian and, thanks in part to James Herriot, most people conjure up images of genial man in tweed jacket (except when he has his arm down the back of a cow). Most of his time spent trundling down country lanes from farm to farm treating livestock and dealing with farmers. When Alf White, the author of the James Herriot books, was working in practice in during the 1940s and 1950s, the veterinary profession was a largely a male dominated, and most of its work involved farm animals. Things have certainly changed since then and now in many countries the profession is becoming a largely a female profession with most working on dogs, cats and other companion animals. A recent paper in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association identifies 2007 as the year in which women will out number the men in the profession in the USA. At December 2005, there were 36,383 female veterinarians in the USA (and 43,186 men) making up almost 46% of the profession. In that same year, 918 male veterinarians and just 50 female veterinarians retired. The graduating class of 2007 (2,489 total students) is split 75.3% (1873 students) and 24.7% male (616). So as 90% of veterinarians retiring are male and 75% entering the profession are female, you see how rapidly this change is talking place.

This rapid change raises a number of questions, such as ‘Will it have any effect on the profession?’ and ‘What is the reason for the change?’ One of the reasons why more women are going to veterinary school is that, in the past, schools often discriminated against female applicants. It was generally considered to be ‘an unsuitable profession for a woman’. I can remember a very lively debate in the letters page of the Veterinary Record in the 1980s, between those who thought that the influx of women would ruin the profession and those with a more progressive view. This brings me on to the second question, ‘what effect will this demographic change have on the veterinary profession?’ There are certain changes and trends that happening alongside the gender change, such as the reluctance of veterinarians to work in large animal practice in remote rural areas. Another concern noted recently in the UK was the reluctance of younger veterinarians to become partners in practice. The younger veterinarians appear to have different aspirations to their predecessors. The continued growth of corporations running practices is another trend changing the face of private practice. Whether these changes can be linked to the gender balance of the profession is not clear, as it could just be a generational change, or a change due to economic pressures.

Looking in the CAB Abstracts Database to see if there was anything on these issues, I came across a reference to a paper written to help the middle aged veterinarian running his own practice deal with these new veterinarians who arrive in practice from veterinary school with a different outlook and with different expectations. It has the intriguing title of ‘Living with the alien spawn: an old fart’s guide to associates’ by C Woloshyn. He describes the ‘old farts’ as middle aged practice owners who were expected to sacrifice themselves for their jobs, and with little responsibility for raising the family. The ‘new alien spawn’ on the other hand see that ‘jobs are not investments, but that careers are’. Woloshyn lists a number of characteristics of these new veterinarians which all lead to the conclusion that today’s veterinarian does not want to grow up to be like her boss. These attributes include: love their career, don’t want to be owners, hate unpredictable hours, woefully ignorant about finances, place a low priority on income, and places a high priority on mentoring. The message of the paper is that if the practice owner takes these considerations into account, they can get the best from their newly qualified veterinarians for the benefit of their clients.

Reference: Woloshyn, C. Living with the alien spawn: an old fart’s guide to associates. Small animal and exotics. Proceedings of the North American Veterinary Conference, Volume 19, Orlando, Florida, USA, 8-12 January, 2005, 2005, pp.1017-1018