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New Report on Animal Disease Status in Indian Ocean States

13 June 2013

INDIAN OCEAN REGION - To mark the first International forum on Public Health Surveillance and Response in island territories, held in St Denis, RĂ©union, from 11 to 13 June 2013, Eric Cardinale, a researcher with CIRAD, reports on five years of surveillance and research within the AnimalRisk animal health network he heads in the Indian Ocean.

While discussing the objectives of the AnimalRisk-OI network launched in late 2008, Mr Cardinale said that it is set out to monitor and study the diseases circulating in farms in the Indian Ocean, and also to develop diagnosis and control methods.

Mr Cardinale said: "The first aim was to inventory the sanitary situation of animal farms in the zone. This was done in 2009 for ruminant, pig, horse and poultry farms for the priority diseases defined by the programme's Steering Committee, comprising animal health managers from the Indian Ocean islands. Once those major diseases had been listed, the second aim was to understand their epidemiology, ie how they are introduced, spread and persist, in order to come up with appropriate control methods.

"The third aim was to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of planned control measures, depending on the risks identified, to ensure they were appropriate for the socioeconomic situation on each island, particularly the Comoros and Madagascar, whose economies are directly dependent on animal production. The fourth aim was to develop diagnostic kits that could easily be used in the field, particularly for Rift Valley fever."

The network has been in operation for five years. According to Mr Cardinale, some of the achievements include a much clearer vision of the sanitary situation in the Indian Ocean. 

He said that a total of 13 diseases are now known and under surveillance in ruminants, four in poultry and five in pigs, including seven zoonoses (diseases transmissible to man): West Nile fever (poultry, horses), Rift Valley fever (ruminants), flu and influenza (poultry, pigs), leptospirosis (rats, etc). It is important to bear in mind that 60 per cent of emerging diseases started in animals, hence the importance of surveillance.

"We need to remain vigilant and not drop our guard," Mr Cardinale said.

"The network is now seen as a real necessity by human health services. As a result, we share our sanitary information with them in real time, and meet regularly for teleweb conferences to share and discuss our common problems and come up with solutions. Although the countries concerned do not all have the same resources, there is a real desire and enthusiasm within the network to respond to these diseases that are threatening animal production and human health. Since the start, we have been working with the SEGA (Surveillance des Epidémies, Gestion des Alertes) human health network, and now our two networks are merging so as to be even more effective; by mid-2013, we will be a single network of doctors, veterinarians and researchers."

According to Mr Cardinale, some of the most noteworthy achievements include the dicovery of Rift Valley fever in the Comoros, Madagascar and Mayotte, but that the virus circulates "at low volume", or in other words without any obvious clinical signs either in animals or in man, apart from a few sporadic cases.

Mr Cardinale said: "We have also revealed the presence of West Nile virus in poultry in Madagascar, and a new viral disease in poultry in the Seychelles: Marek disease, which causes tumours in chickens but is not transmitted to man.

"Our work has also proved that leptospirosis is on the decline in Réunion, but that it is still a problem in Mayotte, with a particular serovar, and a different vector: black rats."

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