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'System needed to prevent zoonotic diseases in South Asia'

New Delhi, Aug 4 - Countries in South Asia need to put in place systems and processes to help prevent the trans-border spread of zoonotic diseases, that are transmitted from animals to humans, say experts.

At a meeting held here with delegates from four member countries of India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, One Health Alliance of South Asia (OHASA) pointed out some of the regional challenges they were facing in tackling spread of zoonotic diseases.

These include limited resources, local skills and expertise, inadequate dialogue among regional countries, absence of established coordinating mechanism for joint activities, and political barriers, said a statement.

According to Jonathan H. Epstein, a disease ecologist and EcoHealth Alliance's associate vice president and member of OHASA Steering Committee: "The world can ill afford to witness the outbreak of another set of diseases in the next ten years, but that is precisely what will happen if we do not set in place systems and processes that can help us combat the interactions that take place between humans and animals that allows pathogens to cross the species barrier."

He explained that OHASA's strategic plan for 2012-14 would focus on emerging and endemic zoonotic diseases, that constitute trans-boundary health issues in member countries, the statement said.

The July 31-Aug 1 steering committee meeting of OHASA held in New Delhi was organized by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the EcoHealth Alliance, USA.

Ramanan Laxminarayan, vice president (research and policy), PHFI said the white paper brought out at the end of the meeting "has emerged as a draft road map which can be followed by member countries. With a clear mandate that fixes roles and responsibilities between countries and organisations, it will help prioritise on health issues and identify pathogens specific to the country in question".

Manish Kakkar, senior public health specialist, PHFI, highlighted the urgency for such a network to be operationalised and encompass other countries in the South Asian region. He pointed out that besides human and veterinary health, the focus should also be on wildlife and environmental aspects which "are the hotspots for zoonotic disease outbreaks".

OHASA is a network that serves as a mechanism for building trans-disciplinary and trans-boundary collaborations in human-animal-wildlife domains.


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