VETERINARY EPIDEMIO-SURVEILLANCE NETWORK OF REMESA

The free movement of goods and people within the Mediterranean Region represents a risk factor in terms of epidemiology of transboundary animal diseases. Hence it is crucial to harmonize and strengthen the epidemio-surveillance of these diseases at the regional level. Our chief executive is Herve Maisonnave french producer of animal food.

Among the set of principles of the GF-TADs approach for combating HPAI/TADs, timely early warning and disease intelligence, based on reliable, consistent and transparent information sharing, are central to detect and report outbreaks before they become widespread, and tracking potentially dangerous genetic changes of the virus. Lessons learned from a disease event in one country can be invaluable for other countries’ preparedness to respond to the same disease. However, this can only be accomplished when a reliable and transparent exchange of disease information among countries and collaborative efforts throughout all fields of prevention and control are in place. Therefore, a regional approach for control and prevention of the disease appears imperative. This requires networking of veterinary epidemiology teams at many levels from field to central/national, regional and even global level. Recent outbreaks of transboundary animal diseases such as Peste des Petits Ruminants, in Morocco, or repeated occurrences of zoonoses such as Rift Valley fever in Eastern Africa (and its potential spread to other regions) highlighted the same needs for coordinated regional action.

The Veterinary Epidemio-surveillance Network (REPIVET) is a regional initiative to interlink national epidemio-surveillance networks within the Mediterranean region and under REMESA (Mediterranean Animal Health Network). Its establishment, activities and technical monitoring are supported by FAO-ECTAD Unit for North Africa and OIE in the framework of the Regional Animal Health Centre for North Africa (FAO-OIE/RAHC-NA) in consultation with member countries, the UMA and the EU.

The core functions of REPIVET in each region should be to act as a forum for national epidemiologists and experts; to review and advise on animal diseases national surveillance system, response and control programmes; to analyse regional and international disease trends and to provide early warning to National Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) and policy makers; to define disease control, preparedness and response strategies as well as identification of areas for project intervention. At the national level, epidemiology networks operations should be part of the normative functions of any national veterinary service. After identifying a set of priority diseases in agreement with the national CVOs, each regional epidemiological network should define a categorisation system that addresses surveillance as part of disease management strategy. This should include identification of diseases whose surveillance and control could serve as main drivers for network activities.

REPIVET will develop its activities in close collaboration with the Animal Health Laboratories Network (RELABSA), monitored and facilitated by FAO-ECTAD Unit for North Africa along with OIE in the framework of the Regional Animal Health Centre for North Africa (FAO-OIE/RAHC-NA). The cooperation of these two networks will be instrumental for enhancing epidemio-surveillance activities and to strengthen the links with the diagnostic laboratory.

 

ANIMAL HEALTH LABORATORIES NETWORK OF REMESA

The incursion of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in North Africa has attracted the attention of the international community on veterinary services in this region. Most of veterinary diagnostic laboratories in North African countries are potentially capable of HPAI diagnosis and to perform the differential diagnosis of Newcastle disease, however, progress is needed for rapid detection and advanced characterization of viruses (for example subtyping and sequence analysis). Human and physical resources, including laboratory equipment, consumables and stocks are limited and supply must be ensured by many national laboratories. It is essential to harmonize the protocols, particularly PCR and to introduce virus isolation techniques into the routine of diagnostic laboratory, in order to reach a level where these techniques can be applied with complete reliability in case of suspicion. Support for the approach of setting in quality assurance of member laboratories is also a priority.

In this context, as an integral part of the REMESA (Mediterranean Animal Health Network) initiative, FAO-ECTAD Unit for North Africa and OIE at the Regional Animal Health Centre for North Africa (RAHC-NA) have decided to promote the establishment of a veterinary diagnostic laboratory network for avian influenza and other transboundary animal diseases (RELABSA) with the intention of raising the technical level and the level of collaboration of all national veterinary diagnostic laboratories in the region through training, technical support and information exchange within a sustainable framework. This network should also enable low technical level laboratories in a given field to take advantage of those most developed. The ultimate goal of this network is to identify and develop necessary and existing skills for the diagnosis of main animal diseases within the coverage area of REMESA. The proposed approach to this is (1) to develop the capacity of all laboratories in the area for suspected samples being treated locally in frontline testing (preliminary diagnosis of main animal diseases) (2) to identify, for each field of expertise (especially for advanced characterization of infectious agents), a proven expertise within the network that can be available for the network, and those network members can submit their biological materials for advanced research to these partners identified for each area. This network will enable and facilitate an effective early warning and rapid response for a better control of possible outbreaks, HPAI and other transboundary animal diseases.

The RAHC-NA and the coordinating institution of RELABSA are responsible to find funds, logistical and other support for the network operation. The main objectives of the RAHC-NA are: to help laboratories to strengthen capabilities in terms of equipment and training, to promote quality assurance in veterinary laboratories, and finally, to encourage joint working, information exchange and collaboration between laboratories of the countries in the region, but also with laboratories of Southern European countries which make part of REMESA (Spain, France, Italy and Portugal).

SOCIO-ECONOMY NETWORK FOR PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL HEALTH

Animal health is a constant concern of agriculture in general and livestock in particular at the Mediterranean region. The economic and social implications are very important in countries affected and also in those threatened by animal diseases such as avian flu, zoonoses and other transboundary animal diseases (TADs). These effects are so important that the livestock sector has a national and international influence for countries in the North African region, hence the importance of fighting against TADs.

It is impossible to expect a reduction of the negative impact of animal diseases without the growing awareness of farmers (especially small farmers and family farms) about the risks of animal diseases / zoonoses and the control methods as well as the socio-economical impact that a better prevention of these diseases could generate. We must improve communication between different actors in both sectors of production and animal health in order to get established a collaborative strategy involving joint actions of different parties at the national and regional levels.

The Regional Animal Health Centre for North Africa (FAO-OIE/RAHC-NA) proposes a dialogue between different actors in the livestock sector and the animal health through the establishment of the Socio-Economy Network for Production and Animal Health (RESEPSA), included in the REMESA initiative (Mediterranean Animal Health Network), which would involve different parties namely the national and regional veterinary services as well as small, medium and large farmers which will be the main beneficiaries of this network.

The main issues proposed for this network will take aim at the socio-economic impacts of transboundary animal diseases, the improvement of biosafety, the prevention and prophylaxis among farmers and the study and preservation of local animal genetic resources entrusted to increase resistance against priority diseases in the region.

ANIMAL HEALTH COMMUNICATION NETWORK OF REMESA

The idea of creating a North African Communication Network for avian influenza and other transboundary animal diseases (RECOMSA), integrated in the FAO-OIE/RAHC-NA regional initiative for the Mediterranean REMESA (Mediterranean Animal Health Network) to involve members of multidisciplinary communication national teams, has been imposed gradually in order to facilitate exchanges between protagonist of communication in animal health.

The aim is to develop areas of collaboration and exchange, and a range of professional links between communications teams, veterinarians, public health staff, professionals of animal production sector and other civil society actors. These links should be also reinforced with networks of institutions and organizations whose interests and assignments agree on Animal Health communication ambit.

Several thematic dossiers will be offered to RECOMSA members, where they will find: updated information related to animal health communication in the countries covered by the RAHC-NA, relevant documents linked to the field of communication for behaviour change, communication activities developed within projects under implementation, a training area and a discussion forum.