Opinion SEE full article

3 steps to help prevent another animal-to-human virus pandemic

May 5, 2020 at 3:52 pm


Peter M. Rabinowitz is the co-director of the University of Washington MetaCenter for Pandemic Disease Preparedness and Global Health Security and director of the UW Center for One Health Research.

Greg Gray is a professor in the Infectious Disease Division of the Duke University School of Medicine.

 Drs. Rabinowitz and Gray are longstanding high profile physician supporter/advocates of the One Health Concept and both are members of the One Health Initiative Advisory Board 

“... Take a One Health approach to food systems feeding the world. 

The first patients to develop SARS were workers handling animals and animal products in live-animal markets and butcheries. Those at highest risk for MERS were workers in close contact with camels.

Animal workers represent the front line for infections passing between animals and humans. Yet compared to workers in factories or hospitals, the health and well-being of animal workers is neglected, and such workers generally are not part of any organized occupational-health programs.

Paying more attention to the health of these workers could improve our ability to detect unusual illnesses before they lead to wider outbreaks.

Why haven’t we learned these lessons already?

Our approach to food systems is siloed. Professionals in agriculture, animal health, human health and the environment have long worked in parallel on issues related to food-production systems.

A new approach, called “One Health,” is a better way forward.

One Health considers the health linkages among humans, animals and their shared environments. The World Health Organization, the United Nations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many other entities have endorsed the One Health concept. We need to incorporate this interdisciplinary approach to feed the world’s human population and promote the health of all species without destroying the environment. This means teamwork among human health, animal health and environmental health scientists and others to devise sustainable solutions to our food-production needs.

Even as we mount a full emergency response to COVID-19, we must also start to integrate the One Health approach at all levels and create a healthy coexistence between humans and animals in sustainable ecosystems, safe from new epidemics.”