Disease control is about a lot more than simply the right vaccine. Building sustainable programs that will make a difference often requires behavioural change and even cultural shifts. Alongside that, vaccination is definitely not an excuse for poor management routines. High-quality vaccines are effective in extremely testing conditions, but no matter how good they are, ultimately human and animal immune systems can be overwhelmed when the challenge is too much.
That is why we concentrate on how vaccines are used, and how elimination and eradication programs are implemented, as much as we do on the technologies to continually develop better vaccines. On the emergence website, and in the emergence podcasts, we talk to people about the diseases themselves, how they spread, what actions can be done to reduce the environmental load, and how to improve the interface between humans and animals.
Awareness is critical. It used to be that vets and doctors could focus on the “local” diseases, but with global travel and shifting weather patterns, vectors are changing their habitats and viruses can be carried tens of thousands of miles before clinical signs are even seen. It is more critical than ever that we watch for unusual diseases. When I was trained as a veterinary surgeon at the University of Glasgow we were told “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras”. A couple of decades later then you need to think of the zebras. African Swine Fever, Lyme Disease, and Lumpy Skin Disease are all examples of diseases that are now common in areas that weren’t even considered ten years ago.
That awareness is built on education. Education of medical professionals, but also of technicians, animal owners, and the public. It’s a privilege to be able to engage with people and share what we have learnt over the years of working in transboundary and emerging diseases. And also for us to learn from others involved on the ground. Whether it is talking to students at college, hosting One Health webinars, supporting village community workshops, helping vets in developing countries attend conferences, or through social media, using different mediums helps communicate the message that we can work together to create a healthy, welfare positive, and sustainable future for us all.
This latest emergence edition will bring you some of those tools and help support you as we work together. Here are a few resources and ways to learn about a variety of diseases, that we would like to bring to your attention: