One Health


Image courtesy of Winsker at


"One Health" initiative was first put forward at the beginning of the 21st century. Its name manages to summarise the concept that has been known for at least a century within two words only - namely, that both human and animal health are mutually dependent on each other, also being linked to the health status of entire ecosystems they exist within. "One Health" initiative proposes that limiting the spread of pathogens among animals may have a positive impact on the reduction of morbidity in humans, among others.

The initiative is authored by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The scope of operation of OIE relies on the creation and publishing of intergovernmental standards, spreading knowledge on animal health and developing a network of international experts and programmes aimed at the enhancement of veterinary services. Moreover, OIE cooperates with over 70 international organizations, particularly those playing crucial parts in the area where the welfare of humans, animals and ecosystems overlap.

The diseases of animal origin that may be transmitted to humans - such as MERS, bird flu, rabies, Rift Valley fever or brucellosis - constitute a global threat for public health. Other diseases, mainly human-to-human transmitted, while also circulating in the animal world or having their animal reservoirs present, pose a serious threat to human health as well. The epidemic outbreak caused by Ebola virus may be provided as an example. The said risks increase with the development of globalisation, climate change, plus - the changes affecting the human behavior and habits - which gives pathogens a great number of possibilities to colonise new territories or evolve into new forms.

OIE estimates that:
  • zoonoses (diseases transmitted from animals to humans) constitute 60% of presently existing infectious diseases,
  • 75% of new human-affecting infectious diseases (e.g. Ebola, HIV, influenza) used to be animal diseases,
  • there are 3 diseases originating in animals among each group of 5 newly-emerging human disease entities,
  • 80% of diseases / agents used by bioterrorists are zoonotic pathogens.

The most effective method to protect humanity against zoonoses is to subject pathogens present in their animal hosts to control measures. Due to this, OIE calls for the implementation of global strategies aimed at the prevention and control of microorganisms in the contact areas of human, animal and ecosystem-related health.

The main role in the development and implementation of measures aimed at the reduction of risk concerning both animal diseases and zoonoses is served by the public and private sectors of veterinary services. They noticeably contribute to sustaining and improving human health by protecting the health of animals, also increasing the level of food safety.

Image credits: Winsker
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