Through the years, our lives and societies have been impacted by several diseases, such as Ebola, influenza and COVID-19, that can spread between animals and humans, also known as zoonoses. These diseases have challenged our global health systems, food supply chains, and economies.
While the scope of the impacts of zoonoses might vary to different extents, many countries showed to have inadequate mechanisms in place to ensure a longstanding and sustainable One Health collaboration. To support countries in filling these gaps, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) developed new operational tools to facilitate the establishment of multisectoral coordination mechanisms, as well as of surveillance and information sharing systems.
Leadership and technical functions to address zoonoses need to be coordinated across all sectors involved. In Qatar, for instance, the MERS-CoV outbreak provided an occasion to strengthen multisectoral coordination at national level, later expanding its areas of work in managing other zoonotic diseases. The Operational Tool on Multisectoral Coordination Mechanisms (MCM OT) provides a standard stepwise approach for countries to establish or strengthen a mechanism for One Health coordination to manage zoonotic diseases, with references to principles and best practices described in the Tripartite Zoonoses Guide.
As zoonotic diseases can be transmitted between people and animals, including vectors, or via the environment, coordinated surveillance must address all pathways. The Operational Tool on Surveillance and Information Sharing (SIS OT) supports national authorities in their efforts to establish or strengthen a One Health multisectoral coordinated SIS system for zoonotic diseases. Such a system is essential for early detection of disease events. By sharing timely information, the risk of transmission from animals to humans can be decreased.
These operational tools complement the already existing Joint Risk Assessment Operational Tool.
The impact of emerging diseases goes far beyond the public and animal health sectors: nearly all sectors are adversely affected. Therefore, multiple sectors and disciplines must work together in response to these sanitary challenges. This applies to coordination mechanisms, surveillance as well as to other aspects of national health systems.
As the world starts to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the operational tools will help improve collaborative response to zoonotic diseases, as well as to other health risks at the human-animal-environment interface in countries.