Written by: Annie Isaacs
The COVID19 pandemic has brought the threat of zoonotic viruses back into public awareness. Increased food production and a more resource intensive population has meant that the human and animal populations are increasingly connected (3). This has led to 75% of new infectious human diseases being defined as zoonotic (1). A zoonotic virus is one that can spread from animals to humans, such as rabies and the flu (6). The recent pandemic has shown the havoc and devastation that a zoonotic virus can cause to human society. Therefore, it is clear that we need a new method of preventing the transmission of diseases between species. One method is the adoption of a One Health approach to public, environmental and animal heath.
A One Health approach recognises the health of humans and animals is connected to each other and to the environment that we share (2). Therefore the health and wellbeing of humans is dependent on that of animals and their environment (and vice versa) (7). A One Health approach to human and animal health is something that many veterinary and human health scientists have been talking about for some time (5). By monitoring and improving the health of one sector, we can improve the health of others or prevent further degradation (6). In an example given by the CDC, cows carrying E.Coli contaminate a neighbouring lettuce crop which is then eaten by people and causes illness (2). However if one sector took action e.g. the cows were tested and treated for E.Coli then human and environmental health would benefit. A One Health approach also requires significant collaboration and sharing of information between sectors and countries (6). This means governments are kept informed of developments or discoveries elsewhere and can prepare if necessary.
The rise of zoonotic diseases over that past few decades is something that cannot be ignored. New ways of tackling these pathogens need to be found in order to ensure human health and survival. However as seen in the staggering death toll of the COVID19 pandemic we cannot simply rely on modern medicine to save us in these epidemics. Therefore, the One Health approach provides a unique opportunity to take the pressure off modern medicine. Additionally, the One Health approach is more holistic and sustainable than many other purely medical methods of zoonoses prevention or eradication.
The approach encourages greater awareness of interactions between sectors but there are concerns that it may neglect to improve environmental health (4). However, if the one health approach was applied by the general public to their day to day lives the outlook for the environment under this strategy could be improved. A One Health approach would ensure that people are aware and conscious of their effects on environmental and animal health and may help in the attitude change that is necessary to tackle climate change. If awareness and undertaking of a One Health approach was increased through education and publicity as well as being used as a governmental public health strategy it has the potential to produce large benefits for human, animal, and environmental health.
(1) Bidaisee, S., & Macpherson, C. N. L. (2014). Zoonoses and Public Health: A Review of the literature.
Journal of Parasitology Research, 2014.
(2) CDC. (2020). One Health Fact Sheet.
(3) El Zowalaty, M. E., & Jarhult, J. D. (2020). From SARS to COVID-19: A previously unknown SARS-related
coronavirus (Sars- CoV-2) of pandemic potential infecting humans – Call for a One Health
Approach. One Health, 9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S235277142030013
(4) Essak, S. Y. (2018). Environment: the neglected component of the One Health triad. The Lancet, 2(6),
(5) Rock, M., Buntain, B. J., Hatfield, J. M., & Hallgrimsson, B. (2009). Animal-human connections, “one
health”, and the syndemic approach to prevention. Social Science and Medicine, 68(6), 991-995.
(6) WHO. (2017). One Health. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/one-health
(7) Zumla, A., Dar, O., Kock, R., Muturi, M., Ntoumi, F., Kaleebu, P., Eusebio, M., Mfinanga, S., Bates, M.,
Mwaba, P., Ansumana, R., Khan, M., Alagaili, A. N., Cotten, M., Azhar, E. I., Maeurer, M., Ippolito,
G., & Petersen, E. Taking forward a ‘One Health’ approach for turning the tide against the Middle
East respiratory syndrome and other zoonotic pathogens with epidemic potential. International
Journal of Infectious Diseases, 47, 5-9.
Image reference: CDC. (n.d.). One Health Basics. https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/basics/index.html