New guidelines for tackling wildlife disease

An animal expert from Scotland’s Rural College has been working with French colleagues to investigate ways of integrating wildlife into disease management processes.

Professor Mike Hutchings, Head of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, was the only UK representative on a French Ministry of Agriculture-funded working group looking at the issue of disease outbreaks caused by multi-host pathogens (MHP).

Such outbreaks can pose a serious challenge to public and livestock health when they involve wild animal species – due to a lack of guidelines for mitigating diseases within these populations.

In addition to existing health challenges which have affected Europe for several decades, including animal tuberculosis and rabies, wildlife is also recognised as the source of many emerging infectious diseases in humans as well as livestock.

Of current concern is the emergence of African swine fever, chronic wasting disease and West Nile virus.

In the report, Multi-host disease management: the why and the how to include wildlife, the researchers outlined the challenges of tackling disease outbreaks in wild animals, including the fact they are often elusive; interact in an uncontrollable manner with multiple other species; and can be difficult to approach or handle.

They also highlighted the issues that arise in the event of a MHP disease outbreak, with authorities often facing contradictory positions and demands from stakeholders and lobbies.

The multi-disciplinary group of experts – including game and wildlife managers, veterinary pathologists, public and veterinary public health officers, microbiologists, ecologists, and representatives of the French Ministries for Agriculture and for Ecology – drew up guidelines for the management of MHP diseases involving wildlife.

These are aimed at public and animal health officers who may not be familiar with wildlife diseases, and aim to ensure that the concepts of wildlife disease management are not only respected, but also integrated into the wider process of managing MHP diseases.

Professor Hutchings said: “Recent advances in our understanding of wildlife disease ecology and improvements in the tools we use to find and monitor pathogens are increasing the performance of disease control strategies.

“Disease outbreaks often span international borders and these guidelines are an initial step towards an agreed response framework for disease outbreaks involving wildlife.”

The report was published in the BMC Veterinary Research journal.

Posted by SRUC on 27/08/2019

Tags: Veterinary Services, Disease, Research
Categories: Animal Welfare