Doctors and animal health experts must work more closely to prevent future pandemics, say scientists

Doctors and animal health specialists must cooperate more closely to ensure that pandemics like Covid-19 can be prevented, spotted and dealt with, experts say.

Scientists writing in the Lancet medical journal argue for a 'One Health' approach with “human, animal and environmental health organisations working together to prevent, monitor and respond to public health emergencies”.

The global spread of Covid-19, which is widely thought to have first jumped to humans at a market selling wild animals in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has again highlighted the links between disease outbreaks in the animal and human worlds.

Bird flu epidemics in recent decades have also shown the links between animal health, animal husbandry and far-reaching human outbreaks.

Epidemiologists have warned that the growing human population, more intensive farming, encroachment on wild animals' habitat and climate change are all likely to increase the number of people exposed to animal diseases.

The Covid pandemic, which is estimated to have killed some 15m people in its first two years and left trillions of pounds of costs and economic damage, “has exposed weaknesses in the world’s global health security networks,” the authors said.

“Clear evidence exists of the benefits in terms of the number of human and animal lives saved and financial savings resulting from closer cross-sectoral cooperation.”

Billions of US dollars per year would make “a real impact on prevention and preparedness globally”, but would be a small fraction of the cost of dealing with another global health emergency like Covid, the authors say.

Dr Osman Dar, of Chatham House, who is one of the contributors, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into much sharper focus the interconnectedness of human health, animal health, and the state of the environment, and the catastrophic impact of underestimating threats that emerge at this interface.

“As countries seek to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, adopting integrated One Health approaches with a full consideration of its underlying principles will be key to achieving meaningful progress and building back better.”

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