West Africa to target human and animal health together to fight Ebola and Zika
West African leaders have agreed a new approach to infectious diseases in an attempt to avert any repetition of the disastrous Ebola outbreak. Human, animal and environmental health will all be considered together, and countries in the region will work collaboratively to catch outbreaks of diseases including avian flu, Zika and Ebola in their early stages.
About 75% of emerging infectious diseases in recent years have come from animals or animal products. The Ebola outbreak, which began nearly three years ago and killed 11,323 people, is thought to have started when a toddler in Guinea came into contact with fruit bats, possibly while playing in a bat-infested tree. Until then, the disease had only been seen in central Africa, and the response of the World Health Organisation, Britain, and the rest of the world was too slow, according to various reports.
Ministers from 16 west African countries pledged to carry out risk assessments, establish ways of raising the alarm when a disease breaks out, and improve their laboratories, at the One Health conference in Dakar.
“Disease outbreaks and public health crises – many of which began in animals – have taken lives and livelihoods, severely impacted our industries and economies, and taken a serious toll on our already-stretched public health workforces,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation’s regional director for Africa.