ISSUE 42  MARCH 2021
COVID-19: One year on

While it will take time to understand the full global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, in this issue we look at some of the lessons learned so far on the importance of the animal health sector in bringing us closer to a return to normality.
SARS-CoV-2 has also shone a powerful light on the wider challenge of zoonotic diseases, the importance of One Health and the needs to do more to protect both animal and human health.

Our quick-read infographic focuses on the effectiveness of methods to control rabies and how these measures could be adopted to eradicate future zoonotic outbreaks.

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Since the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago, the veterinary sector has played a vital role in our response. This is what we have learned so far.

1. Animal health research was a crucial foundation: Coronaviruses were previously well-studied by veterinary medicine developers, whereas a human coronavirus vaccine had never been created. This was an opportunity for animal researchers to provide crucial knowledge in a crisis.

2. Veterinarians strengthen our pandemic response: From the start of the pandemic, veterinary laboratories were a "lynchpin" for authorities seeking greater testing capacity. Today, veterinarians are helping with vaccine administration in some nations. 

3. The importance of vaccines as the foundation of animal and human health and the key to disease control has been widely recognised. Vaccines for both humans and animals can now be developed quickly boosting future responses to emerging threats.

4. Robust surveillance will be essential if we are to recognize and stop the next zoonotic pandemic, yet this is lacking in most parts of the world.

Fulfilling the UN’s call to ‘Build Back Better’ from COVID-19 will require taking a hard look at how veterinary expertise and One Health are integrated into our public health systems.

75% - the percentage of emerging, infectious diseases that are zoonotic. The vast majority are from wildlife, meaning we know little about them before they reach humans.

$120 billion – The amount that just six zoonotic disease outbreaks cost the world between 1995 and 2008.

59,000 – The number of people who still die from rabies each year following a bite from an infected dog, despite availability of effective vaccines.

Reversing these trends is possible. Improved surveillance, vaccine uptake, One Health partnerships across human-animal health, and early warning systems can all help strengthen the global effort to fight zoonoses.
“Zoonoses pose one of the greatest threats to our health, safety, and security. Stopping the spread requires a One Health approach that brings human, animal, and environmental health sectors together.”

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Zoonotic diseases are responsible for an estimated 2.5 billion cases of illness in people and 2.7 million human deaths worldwide each year.
Experts at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), a part of the CGIAR system, have launched a new publication series outlining seven ways we can invest in One Health between now and 2030.

A few of the areas identified by ILRI, and their importance, include:
  • Zoonoses Control - "People are healthier, safer, and better off when their livestock and the animals around them are healthy".
  • Food Safety – "People are healthier when their food is nutritious, safe from germs and chemicals, and is handled in clean environments."
  • Livestock Health – "People's lives and livelihoods directly benefit from investments in the health and welfare of their livestock" 
Read ILRI's summary on their website or download the individual briefs at
Whilst rabies is still a deadly disease in many parts of the world, it’s a zoonosis that’s now being brought under control thanks to pioneering work over the past decade.
The infographic below summarises some of the initiatives that are proven to help manage (and will hopefully eradicate) rabies, each of which could be used to control future zoonotic outbreaks.
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