International expert panel to address the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases
International organizations have come together to launch a One Health High-Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP) to improve understanding of how diseases with the potential to trigger pandemics emerge and spread. The inaugural meeting was held on 17th May.
The panel will advise the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on the development of a long-term global plan of action to avert outbreaks of zoonotic diseases.
Key first steps will include systematic analyses of scientific knowledge about the factors that lead to transmission of a disease from animal to humans and vice versa; development of risk assessment and surveillance frameworks; identification of capacity gaps as well as agreement on good practices to prevent and prepare for zoonotic outbreaks.
The panel will consider the impact of human activity on the environment and wildlife habitats. Critical areas will include food production and distribution; urbanization and infrastructure development; international travel and trade; activities that lead to biodiversity loss and climate change; and those that put increased pressure on the natural resource base – all of which can lead to the emergence of zoonotic diseases.
The panel will guide the development of a dynamic new research agenda and draw up evidence-based recommendations for global, regional, national and local action.
France and Germany supported the launch of the OHHLEP.
Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, France, commented: “The COVID-19 pandemic, whose zoonotic origin is strongly suspected, underlines how closely human, animal and environmental health are linked. It demonstrates the importance of the ‘One Health’ approach. It is in this context that France, together with Germany, proposed the creation of such a Panel at the meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism organized on the occasion of the Paris Peace Forum on 12 November 2020.”
Mr Heiko Maas, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Germany, said: “COVID-19 has painfully reminded us that the health of humans, animals and the environment around the world is closely connected: Nobody is safe until everybody is safe. This is what we have to bear in mind to prevent future pandemics. The establishment of the One Health High-Level Expert Panel thus marks an important step in the right direction. Germany and France will continue to support the panel’s work.”