The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) provides a framework for its Members to apply for the official recognition of animal health status for six priority diseases on a voluntary basis. This recognition is crucial for supporting national livestock economies as it facilitates regional and international trade of animals and their products. 

In 2024, five countries obtained official recognition for their animal health status: 

These accomplishments represent strong progress in the global fight against highly contagious livestock diseases. The official recognition of these statuses not only acknowledges the effective disease control, prevention and early detection measures implemented by these countries but also enhances their access to regional and international markets. 

In addition to celebrating these new recognitions, it is important to highlight the successful maintenance of the 385 already officially recognised animal health statuses and endorsed control programmes.  

Members can also submit their official control programmes for four diseases for WOAH’s assessment. In 2023, Zambia received the endorsement of its official control programme for dog-mediated rabies, preceded by Namibia and the Philippines in 2022. This achievement is a significant step forward in combating a disease that still causes approximately 59,000 human deaths annually. These countries’ efforts contribute to the ‘Zero by 30’ global goal to eliminate human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030.

The recognition of animal health status by WOAH not only underscores the achievements of individual countries in disease control but also plays a pivotal role in promoting safe trade of animal goods and improving the livelihoods of those dependent on the livestock sector. 

The use of antimicrobial drugs has allowed global health to make significant positive strides over the past years. However, widespread misuse of antimicrobials in humans, animals and plants dramatically contributes to the emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens. This poses a shared threat to human and animal health, with important repercussions on our interconnected ecosystems. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has started to spark an unprecedented global crisis and addressing this cross-sectorial challenge is more urgent than ever before. 

The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) is committed to protecting animal health and welfare including setting the standards for AMR for the animal health sector. Our standards and guidelines provide a framework for surveillance of use of antimicrobials and antimicrobial resistance, while also promoting the responsible use of antimicrobial products in animals.  

Every year at the General Session, WOAH’s International Standards go through a revision process following specific needs mainly raised by its 183 Members. Covering updates of different nature, the revision reflects the work of the Organisation in tackling complex issues, building consensus among Members and finding up-to-date solutions that are grounded in science and designed to benefit both animal and human health.   

The revision of the standard on AMR (chapter 6.10) during the 91st General Session was driven by WOAH Specialist Commissions with the support of the Working Group on AMR and covers three major aspects: enlarging the scope of standards to include companion animals, incorporating environmental safeguards and updating the recommendations of the WOAH list of antimicrobial agents of veterinary importance.

These changes draw on the growing needs that arise from today’s interconnected world. 

Firstly, the environmental dimensions of AMR tend to be routinely overlooked when considering the use of antimicrobials and AMR in animals. This year’s changes to chapter 6.10 reflect the need for a One Health approach when dealing with AMR. In fact, considering the potential environmental impact of antimicrobial use in animals is of critical importance. Either qualitative or quantitative, an environmental risk assessment should be conducted by the pharmaceutical industry when submitting applications for regulatory approval for veterinary medicinal products containing antimicrobial agents. Additionally, instructions should be provided by manufacturers to ensure the safe disposal of unused and expired veterinary products to avoid environmental contamination.  

In a world with over 1 billion companion animals worldwide, the culture of pet ownership in emerging economies has shifted, allowing for closer interactions between companion animals and humans. There is also growing evidence in literature about bidirectional transfer of resistant-pathogens, including through contact or sharing a contaminated environment. This called for a revision of the WOAH standards to raise the Members’ awareness on the need to extend their activities to promote responsible antimicrobial use in companion animals, and to consider these species also when reporting AMU data to ANIMUSE. Increasing awareness around risks and good practices among pet owners, in close collaboration with the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), is also vital. 

Last but not least, the Organisation provides specific recommendations on how to use in veterinary medicine of antimicrobial agents that are considered critically important for animal and human health.  As part of this ongoing effort, the WOAH list of antimicrobial agents of veterinary importance  updated to align its recommendations with the latest changes in categorisation criteria of the World Health Organisation (WHO); as such, phosphonic acid derivatives are now considered as critically important antimicrobials, together with colistin, fluoroquinolones and third and fourth generation cephalosporins. 

Together, this year’s changes to the standards on AMR are meant to create a pathway for a responsible antimicrobial use in different animal health contexts and settings.

This is an important step forward in the fight against the deadly threat of AMR. For many years there has been considerable interest in the appropriate use and stewardship of antimicrobials within the small animal community worldwide. Aligning this interest with the global standards and actions of WOAH is a crucial to unlocking the One Health potential.

Stephen Page, Member of the AMR Working Group.

At the end of this unanimous adoption, I would like to congratulate you on your commitment to One Health. We know that resistance to antimicrobials is a
cross-sectoral challenge… and we are proud that we continue to make progress in the animal health sector by adopting the updates on these standards
,” concludes WOAH Director General Dr Monique Eloit. 

Today marks another significant milestone in the World Organisation for Animal Health’s (WOAH) unwavering commitment to global animal health as the Organisation announces the election of its new Director General. 

Through a secret ballot vote, following the “one country, one vote” rule, WOAH Delegates chose Dr Soubeyran, to lead the Organisation into its next chapter. She therefore becomes WOAH’s 8th Director General. Under Soubeyran’s leadership, the Organisation will remain dedicated to advancing animal health governance, promoting a safer, healthier future for both animals and humans. 

Dr Soubeyran’s election brings an end to predecessor Dr Monique Eloit’s successful 8-year tenure at the  Organisation. Dr Eloit leaves a significant legacy, having enhanced global cooperation to combat animal diseases. During her two mandates, WOAH has strengthened its Members’ capacity and inclusivity, expanding support for veterinary paraprofessionals and community animal health workers. Fostering innovation, WOAH also implemented data-driven programmes such as the Observatory, a monitoring mechanism of the implementation of WOAH Standards, and the global database on animal antimicrobial use, ANIMUSE.  

As we celebrate WOAH’s 100th anniversary, we reflect on a century of unwavering commitment to global animal health. The future presents complex and interconnected challenges, from zoonotic diseases to the sustainability of animal production. WOAH is prepared to take the lead in addressing these issues with an emphasis on collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity.   

Transboundary animal diseases, with their ability to spread rapidly across borders and escalate into epidemics, pose serious threats to global economic stability, trade, livelihoods, global  health and food security.  

The Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADs), a joint initiative led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), has dedicated its efforts since 2004 to address major global and regional animal diseases and zoonoses. 

On 24 May, we commemorate the 20th anniversary of GF-TADs and the significant milestones achieved in enhancing animal diseases surveillance and reporting mechanisms, developing early warning systems, and strengthening capacity-building efforts within animal health services. By fostering collaboration among regional and subregional organizations as well as national veterinary authorities,
GF-TADs has facilitated the coordination of efforts to tackle challenges in disease prevention, detection, and control. 

One of the notable successes of GF-TADs is its contribution to the eradication of rinderpest and reduction of the risk of  re-emergence.  In line with the Global Rinderpest Action Plan, GF-TADS has supported and coordinated efforts to raise awareness on vaccine availability, capacity building for rapid response to a re-emergence, as well as sequestering and destroying infectious material. Rinderpest is a highly contagious viral disease that plagued livestock populations for centuries. Through concerted efforts in the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme led by FAO, WOAH and partners, including the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), rinderpest was officially declared eradicated in 2011, marking a significant achievement in the history of veterinary medicine and animal health. 

In addition to rinderpest, GF-TADs, through international cooperation, dialogue, and stepwise approaches to improvement has also prioritized the control and eradication of other transboundary animal diseases such as African swine fever (ASF), Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), and recently, the widely devastating highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).  

As a key component of FAO’s sustainable livestock transformation initiative, GF-TADs has helped countries make progress in reducing the prevalence and impact of these diseases by developing and implementing global and regional strategies tailored to specific disease threats. In particular, successful vaccination campaigns have been coordinated against Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) in Southeast Europe, with swift support and capacity-building activities initiated for ASF in MesoAmerica following detection of ASF in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Similarly, coordination efforts have worked to address the emergence of viruses like LSD, PPR and ASF in Asia, along with FMD serotype O in the Middle East and Caucasus region, and to create momentum around the control of regional priority transboundary animal diseases (TADs) in Africa.  

In addition to the previous success stories, the successful launch of the new global strategy on HPAI, marks a fruitful collaboration between FAO and WOAH under GF-TADS. This strategy reflects the requests and recommendations made by the Member Countries and other stakeholders during the FAO and WOAH global meetings in 2023, as well as global and regional consultations. The strategy prioritizes prevention of impacts through early detection and control and reducing the risk of HPAI through poultry value chain transformation and biosecurity enhancements. By emphasizing a systems approach, the strategy aims to ensure that local challenges and realities are addressed to increase resilience in the poultry sector and protect the health of humans, ecosystems, and animals. 

Despite these achievements, GF-TADs partners continue to face challenges. These include the emergence and spread of TADs, lack of capacity in the animal health workforce, reduced  access to quality vaccines, difficulties in resource mobilization, competing priorities, and a lack of political will to invest in TADs prevention and control. Additionally, long-range movements and marketing of animals and animal products, increased opportunities for livestock-wildlife interactions, and challenges in timely identification and traceability of infected animals can increase the risk for larger and more severe outbreaks. However, GF-TADs remains committed to its mission of enhancing global cooperation and coordination, including increased financial support, to tackle these risk factors at their source and reduce the impacts of transboundary animal diseases.

As GF-TADs celebrates its accomplishments over the years, it underscores the importance of international collaboration and partnership among all the stakeholders involved in addressing complex challenges in animal health. Through multidisciplinary and One Health approaches, public-private partnerships, and working together, countries can build more resilient veterinary systems, stop the losses caused by TADS, safeguard food security, and protect livelihoods for future generations. 

The Competencies for One Health Field Epidemiology (COHFE) Framework establishes a standardized approach to training frontline responders in the interconnected fields of human, animal, and environmental health. This critical workforce plays a vital role in detecting, investigating, and responding to disease outbreaks at the source, thus protecting health across all sectors using a One Health approach.

“A well-trained One Health field epidemiology workforce is essential for tackling today’s complex health challenges,” said Julio Pinto, Animal Production and Health Division at FAO. “The new guidance provide a roadmap for building a global network of skilled professionals who can effectively collaborate to prevent and respond to endemic and emerging diseases with zoonotic potential.”

The COHFE Framework outlines core competencies for frontline, intermediate, and advanced levels of field epidemiology training. It emphasizes the importance of a One Health approach, equipping trainees with the skills to investigate outbreaks across the human-animal-environment interface.

“This new guidance represents a major milestone in strengthening One Health capacity worldwide,” said Dr Marion Muehlen, Head of the Field Epidemiology Strengthening Unit of WHO. “By ensuring field epidemiologists are trained with a One Health lens, we can foster a more collaborative and effective approach to outbreak preparedness and response.”

The COHFE Framework is a comprehensive resource for governments, training institutions, and health agencies. It includes guidance on curriculum development, mentorship, learning evaluation and certification, and continuing education, ensuring a holistic approach to building a skilled One Health field epidemiology workforce. Their application at country level will assure harmonised competencies while enhancing mutual recognition and stronger integration of professionals.

Effective disease prevention and control require a unified approach across sectors. The COHFE Framework promotes collaboration among animal, human, and environment health workforce, strengthening our collective ability to safeguard global health.

Barbara Alessandrini, Head of the Capacity-Building Department of WOAH

The role of the environment sector in One Health is emphasized throughout the COHFE Framework and an expert from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) contributed to the work of the technical advisory group that reviewed guidance. UNEP will join FAO, WHO and WOAH as the COHFE initiative moves into an implementation phase.

Field epidemiologists need to take a systems-based approach to their work and consider environmental factors that drive disease risk,” said Julian Blanc, lead of the One Health Team at UNEP. “The health of people, animals and ecosystems are interlinked and interdependent. Training field epidemiologists to effectively integrate environmental considerations is essential for ensuring the health of our planet.”

The release of the COHFE framework and guidance marks a significant step towards a more collaborative and effective approach to global health security. By equipping field epidemiologists with the necessary One Health competencies and skills, we can prevent potential epidemics, pandemics and build a more resilient future for all.

Sweden – Latest data reveals a concerning 2% increase in antimicrobial use in animals at global level between 2019 and 2021, after several consecutive years of significant decrease. The data is part of the latest report on antimicrobial use in animals released today at the 9th Meeting of the Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (GLG on AMR) held in Sweden.

The need for urgent action has never been more evident. Robust surveillance systems are critical to support informed decision-making that will enable the implementation of cost-effective AMR interventions under a One Health approach.

Mr. Jakob Forssmed, GLG Member and Minister for Social Affairs and Public Health, Sweden

Antimicrobials are critical medicines whose effectiveness must be preserved for the treatment, control and, where appropriate, for the prevention of infectious diseases in animals, humans and plants. Resistance to these medicines has become a major concern, as it endangers everyone’s health. Economic reports already project a potential loss of 1.8 years of life expectancy worldwide by 2035 due to AMR1.

Although AMR is a natural phenomenon, it can be greatly accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials across sectors. Efficient monitoring systems are essential to inform decisions targeting the responsible use of antimicrobials.

Since 2015, WOAH has been monitoring the use of antimicrobials in animals, as a key component of its strategy to limit the emergence of AMR. ANIMUSE, the global database on ANImal antiMicrobial USE, facilitates access to this crucial and growing set of information. This initiative has contributed to triple the number of countries with a surveillance system in place over the last decade.

Today, the Organisation released the latest groundbreaking data, highlighting both progress and challenges in the global fight against AMR in the animal health sector.

The animal health sector plays a pivotal role in the efforts to curb AMR by promoting a more responsible use of antimicrobials. Therefore, it has to be adequately supported to help accelerate the response to this still growing threat.

Dr Monique Eloit, WOAH Director General

Among the four key actions identified to effectively address AMR in animals, preventive measures should be prioritised. When available, vaccines can be robust allies to prevent diseases that could otherwise lead to the use of antimicrobials. Yet only six cents for every 10 USD were allocated to R&D in animal health vaccines from 2017 to 20242, highlighting the need to enhance research, development and implementation of innovative tools in animal health.

A focus on the use of antimicrobials for growth promotion

Growth promotion means using antimicrobials in healthy animals to boost productivity. While significant progress has been made in phasing out this practice, data showcases that it is still reported by almost 20% of WOAH’s Members. More worryingly, at least 11% still use one or more of the highest priority critically important antimicrobials for human medicine, such as colistin, as growth promoters. 

WOAH continues to encourage its Members to restrict the use of antimicrobials solely to veterinary medical use and to actively engage in dialogue with the concerned parties to achieve a total ban on the use of antimicrobials as growth promoters, starting with those that are critically important for human health.

In light of the recent data, collective efforts must be redoubled to safeguard the health and well-being of current and future generations by preserving the efficacy of antimicrobials. Everyone’s health is at stake.


1GLG report:  Towards specific commitments and action in the response to antimicrobial resistance

2 AMR R&D Hub: A global partnership currently consisting of 17 countries, the European Commission and two philanthropic foundations, launched in May 2018 following a call from G20 leaders

Results from an economic study confirm that the already staggering human toll
of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) will be compounded by a catastrophic hit to the global economy unless bolder and more urgent action is taken, the Global Leaders Group (GLG) on AMR said today.

AMR is already a leading cause of death globally, directly responsible for 1.27 million deaths annually, one in five of which occur in children under the age of five, mainly in low- and middle-income countries.

Uncontrolled AMR is expected to lower life expectancy and lead to unprecedented health expenditure and economic losses

The economic study shows that without a stronger response there would be an average loss of 1.8 years of life expectancy globally by 2035. The study also estimates that AMR would cost the world US$ 412 billion a year in additional healthcare costs and US$ 443 billion per year in lost workforce productivity.

The tools to tackle AMR exist, but must be dramatically scaled up

The economic study shows that if implemented globally, a package of cross-sectoral AMR interventions is expected to cost an average of US$ 46 billion per year but will bring a return of up to US$13 for every US$1 spent by 2050.

We have the tools to mitigate the AMR crisis and these data point to a devastating future if we do not
take bolder action now. That is why the Global Leaders Group is making recommendations and proposing targets to drive a robust
global response to AMR and save millions of lives.

Mia Amor Mottley, Chair of the GLG on AMR, Prime Minister of Barbados.

The Global Leaders Group calls on UN Member States to act boldly

In a new report released today, the GLG calls on political leaders to make specific commitments at the high-level meeting on AMR to be held at the United Nations General Assembly on 26 September. The GLG report, “Towards specific commitments and action in the response to antimicrobial resistance” urges UN Member States to ensure that adequate, predictable, and sustainable financing is available from domestic and external sources to address AMR, including to tackle the dwindling research and development pipeline for new antibiotics. The GLG proposes that existing financing instruments expand their scope to include AMR and increase investments to support implementation of multisectoral National Action Plans, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

The report notes how accountable, effective and functional multisectoral governance is critical to coordinate a global response to AMR and successfully implement interventions. To achieve this, the GLG proposes an independent panel be established to monitor and report on science and evidence related to AMR to inform advocacy and action and formalising the Quadripartite Joint Secretariat to facilitate collaborative and coordinated action against AMR.

The GLG stresses the need for improved quality of data on antimicrobial resistance and use through surveillance and monitoring and recommends that countries strengthen human resources and crucial infrastructure capacity. The report highlights the need for sustainable, sector-specific, and integrated surveillance systems and the use of data for action.

Because prevention is a cornerstone of the response to AMR, the GLG recommends that countries should implement strategies to prevent infections across human and animal health and food, plant and environmental ecosystems to reduce the need for antimicrobials.

Global targets are needed to drive further action on AMR

To drive global and national action on AMR, the GLG report proposes several outcome-oriented targets to accelerate progress:

  • By 2030, reduce global human deaths due to AMR by 10%.
  • By 2030, ACCESS1 group antibiotics comprise at least 80% of overall human antibiotic consumption.
  • By 2030, reduce the quantity of antimicrobials used in the agri-food system globally by at least 30 – 50% from the current level;
  • By 2030, eliminate the use of medically important antimicrobials for human medicine in animals for non-veterinary medical purposes, or in crop production and agri-food systems for non-phytosanitary purposes.

The GLG calls for urgent consideration of these recommendations by UN Member States. World leaders have a unique opportunity at the High-level Meeting on AMR on 26 September 2024 to save lives, livelihoods and economies by taking action to address AMR across sectors.

For inquiries, please contact the Global Leaders Group secretariat at [email protected]

1 Access group antibiotics have activity against a wide range of commonly encountered susceptible pathogens while also showing lower resistance potential than antibiotics in the other groups: WHO AwARE classification of
antibiotics for evaluation and monitoring of use, 2023.


Background

The Global Leaders Group (GLG) on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) was established in 2020 following the recommendation of the Interagency Coordination Group on AMR (IACG) with the mission to advise on and advocate for political action for the mitigation of drug-resistant infections through responsible and sustainable access to and use of antimicrobials. Secretariat support for the GLG is provided by the Quadripartite Joint Secretariat (QJS) on Antimicrobial Resistance, a joint effort by the Quadripartite organisations, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH).

The GLG is chaired by Her Excellency the Prime Minister of Barbados, Ms Mia Amor Mottley; the Vice Chair is the Honourable Dr Chris Fearne, Deputy Prime Minister of Malta. GLG members include government ministers, academics, and influential figures from the private sector and civil society, as well as the principals of the Quadripartite organizations.

The GLG is implementing its rolling action plan across six priority areas: 1) Sustained political action on AMR; 2) Transforming human health, animal health, food, plant and environmental ecosystems with a focus on infection prevention and control and responsible use; 3) Advocacy for improved surveillance and monitoring of antimicrobial use and resistance across sectors, including to guide target-setting and interventions and assess their impacts; 4) Increased mobilization of internal and external fiancial resources, especially for national action plan implementation in low and middle-income countries (LMICs); 5) Innovation across sectors to secure a sustainable pipeline of antimicrobials (particularly antibiotics), vaccines, diagnostics, waste management tools, and safe and effective alternatives to antimicrobials, and ensure equitable access to these products; and 6) Advocating for evidence-based action to address environmental apsects of AMR.

In March 2022, WOAH, alongside the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and UNEP, solidified its commitment to advancing One Health principles by establishing the Quadripartite Collaboration on One Health. This collaboration aims to address the intricate interconnections between animal health, human health, and the environment, leveraging joint expertise to tackle emerging diseases, zoonotic infections, foodborne illnesses, and environmental challenges. 

During the Second Quadripartite Executive Annual Meeting at the United Nations Office in Nairobi from 29 February to 6 March 2024, WOAH formally assumed its role as forthcoming chair of the Quadripartite Secretariat, reinforcing its dedication to combating zoonotic animal diseases such as rabies or vector-borne diseases through a holistic approach. 

We stand prepared to move forward with our strategic priorities centred around implementing the One Health Joint Plan of Actions, resource mobilisation, capacity building, engagement in political forums and One Health governance, and taking action against important neglected zoonotic diseases.

Monique Eloit, Director General of the World Organisation for Animal Health. 

At the forefront of WOAH’s leadership lies our robust commitment to combatting rabies, a preventable yet deadly disease that still affects vulnerable communities worldwide. Overall, through strategic priorities outlined for the term, the Organisation aims to drive impactful initiatives that resonate across national, regional, and global levels: 

  1. Implementation of the One Health Joint Plan of Actions (OH JPA) at a national level 

    Through resource mobilisation, regional coordination mechanisms, the integration of existing operational tools, as well as communication and advocacy activities, WOAH will prioritise the rollout of the OH JPA in selected countries, emphasising the critical role of the animal health sector in safeguarding everyone’s health.
  2. Monitoring and evaluation framework for the OH JPA 

    The Quadripartite will develop a monitoring and evaluation framework with targets and indicators that are relevant to facilitating reporting on OH JPA progress as well as its overall advocacy for its initial five years.
  3. Development of a One Health Learning Coordination task force 

    Focusing on strengthening One Health collaborative capacity, WOAH will champion the establishment of a One Health Learning Coordination task force. By providing access to resources and fostering lifelong learning for the One Health workforce, WOAH aims to build capacity and drive innovation in One Health efforts.
  4. One Health within the global political agenda

    WOAH and its Quadripartite partners will make efforts to ensure that One Health principles are embedded in global political discussions and agreements. This includes advocating for One Health inclusion in the pandemic accord negotiations, coordinating with key stakeholders, and organising briefings to countries on One Health issues. Additionally, the Quadripartite will actively engage in political forums such as the G20 and G7 to raise awareness and mobilise support for comprehensive One Health governance mechanisms, fostering intersectoral collaboration to address future health emergencies effectively.
  5. One Health action against zoonotic diseases: rabies as model 

    WOAH will promote efforts to control and eliminate endemic zoonoses, neglected tropical diseases, and vector-borne diseases, with a particular focus on ending human deaths from dog-mediated rabies. Leveraging on the strategic plan Zero by 30 developed by FAO, WHO, and WOAH, OH JPA activities on rabies will operationalise the One Health approach in countries with the highest rabies burden. This includes promoting the development of national control plans while considering surveillance in wildlife, facilitating access to the WOAH vaccine bank for the vaccination of dogs (both sheepdogs in contact with wildlife and free-roaming dogs), and fostering stakeholder and communities communication.  

As WOAH assumes the chair of the Quadripartite Secretariat, it reaffirms its commitment to advancing One Health principles and their operational implementation to ensure a safer and healthier future for all. 

The ongoing spread of high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI) has now reached an unprecedented milestone with reports of its recent detection on Antarctica’s mainland. Originally surfacing in Europe in 2021, the virus has traversed continents, reaching North America in the same year and South America by 2022. Most recently, it has extended its reach to Antarctic islands in 2023. However, the gravity of the situation intensifies as it infiltrates the northern tip of Antarctica’s mainland, as reported through the World Animal Health Information System (WAHIS).

The discovery came through the identification of the virus in a South Polar skua collected by Argentinian scientists near Argentina’s Antarctic research base, Primavera. Skuas, large seabirds breeding in sub-Antarctic and Antarctic zones, pose a concerning vector as they migrate farther north when not breeding.  

Once considered primarily a threat to poultry, HPAI has ushered in a “new normal” whereby HPAI is moving from wild birds to wild mammals with impacts beyond anything previously seen. Estimates vary, but at the latest count, there have been 485 species from over 25 avian orders affected and 37 new mammal species infected since 2021. Only Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand remain free of the disease, but the situation is changing rapidly.

HPAI outbreaks have resulted in marked declines in wildlife populations, including marine mammals in South America. Despite the challenges, there are strategies to better protect wildlife in the short and long term. These include  preventing further spillover events to and from poultry through improved biosecurity, implementing improved surveillance systems to both inform virus epidemiology and benefit wildlife, and responding to outbreaks in wildlife using a coordinated, interagency-multisectoral approach. For example, WOAH’s Working Group on Wildlife has produced new guidelines on the emergency vaccination of wild birds of high conservation importance against HPAI and the management of HPAI in marine mammals. 

The loss of wildlife at the current scale presents an unprecedented risk of wildlife population collapse, creating an ecological crisis. WOAH encourages Members to quickly and thoroughly respond to outbreaks of HPAI in wildlife, emphasising the incorporation of wildlife health into animal health surveillance, reporting, preparedness, and response systems. These efforts require not merely viewing wildlife as a potential risk to production animal and human health, but as beings warranting protection in their own right. WOAH underscores the importance of robust interagency coordination and inclusion of diverse expertise to ensure transparency, equity and mutual benefit of decisions. 

The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) is proud to announce the launch of the Observatory’s first thematic study, with a focus on the international standard of zoning.  

The thematic study is the latest output of the Observatory run by WOAH, a programme monitoring the implementation of its international standards. To get the data needed for the assessment, a questionnaire was sent to Members to assess the use of zoning for avian influenza, African swine fever (ASF) and foot and mouth disease (FMD). The results have been put together in a comprehensive study which notably highlights the use, major challenges, drawbacks and positive impacts of implementation, ending with a set of good practices for both the Organisation and its Members. Zoning as a standard was implemented by 70% of responding Members affected by avian influenza in poultry, 55% of Members affected by ASF, and 50% of Members affected by FMD.

Amongst Members using zoning,

27%

reported partial or no integration of WOAH standards on zoning into their national regulatory framework

34%

reported the integration of WOAH standards on zoning into their practices.  

WOAH International Standards provide a solid basis to improve global animal health, welfare, veterinary public health and international/regional trade facilitation if consistently incorporated into national and legislative frameworks. Zoning and compartmentalisation are two key concepts specifically designed to support Members in preventing and controlling the spread of a disease, while also contributing to the safe trade of animals and related commodities. However, Members may face challenges as they attempt to implement zoning and compartmentalisation standards. At times, their capacity to meet and adhere to them can also be limited, as shown by previous work of the Organisation. 

Setting standards is central to WOAH’s mission. In that context, the Organisation also looks at how Standards are used by Members. It is with this goal in mind that the Observatory was created. A data-driven programme, the Observatory monitors the implementation of WOAH International Standards and has a twofold purpose. First, it is meant to help the Organisation better support its Members by identifying where the services and processes proposed by WOAH could be better adjusted respond to Members’ needs. Second, by highlighting barriers to the implementation of these standards, and by developing tailored capacity-building activities, the programme ensures that the standards remain relevant, fit-for-purpose, and are well understood. 

For an entire century, WOAH has been at the forefront of controlling infectious animal diseases using innovation as a driving force. Reliable data supports national authorities and the international community in making evidence-based decisions that improve global health security and strengthen health systems.  In 2022, WOAH set off on a momentous journey with the innovation brought on by the Observatory, and is now spearheading the effort to make data related to animal health accessible for everyone.  

The section of the thematic study dedicated to compartmentalisation will follow in 2024-2025. The data collected on zoning are being currently further analysed to explore the factors that may influence the acceptance of zones by trading partners. These findings will be shared later in 2024. 

For more information, you can consult the thematic study on Use, challenges and impact of zoning and compartmentalisation and a short factsheet, offering a visual glimpse into the results.