New international expert panel to address the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases
Geneva/Paris/Rome, 20 May 2021 – 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 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE); the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); and the World Health Organization (WHO) – 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 recognizes 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 human 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; urbanization 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 development of a dynamic new research agenda and draw up evidence-based recommendations for global, regional, national and local action.