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International organisations launch panel to understand trigger of pandemics
Tuesday, 25 May, 2021, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Geneva/Paris/Rome
International organisations have come together to launch a new One Health High-Level Expert Panel to improve understanding of how diseases with the potential to trigger pandemics, emerge and spread.
The panel will advise four international organisations - the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - on the development of a long-term global plan of action to avert outbreaks of diseases like H5N1 avian influenza; MERS; Ebola; Zika, and, possibly, COVID-19.

Three quarters of all emerging infectious diseases originate in animals.
It will operate under the One Health Approach, which recognises the links between the health of people, animals, and the environment and highlights the need for specialists in multiple sectors to address any health threats and prevent disruption to agri-food systems.

Key first steps will include systematic analyses of scientific knowledge about the factors that lead to transmission of a disease from animal to humans and vice versa; development of risk assessment and surveillance frameworks; identification of capacity gaps as well as agreement on good practices to prevent and prepare for zoonotic outbreaks.

The panel will consider the impact of human activity on the environment and wildlife habitats. Critical areas will include food production and distribution; urbanisation and infrastructure development; international travel and trade; activities that lead to biodiversity loss and climate change; and those that put increased pressure on the natural resource base - all of which can lead to the emergence of zoonotic diseases.

The panel will guide the development of a dynamic new research agenda and draw up evidence-based recommendations for global, regional, national and local action.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said: "Human health does not exist in a vacuum, and nor can our efforts to protect and promote it. The close links between human, animal and environmental health demand close collaboration, communication and coordination between the relevant sectors. The High-Level Expert Panel is a much-needed initiative to transform One Health from a concept to concrete policies that safeguard the health of the world's people."

Dr Qu Dongyu, FAO director-general, told the panel at its first meeting: "This panel will contribute to advancing the One Health agenda, by helping to better understand the root causes of disease emergence and spread, and informing decision-makers to prevent long-term public health risks. I encourage it to be a shining example of silo-breaking, systems thinking and open dialogue. Expectations for collective action and the need for effective collaboration have never been higher."
 
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