World Veterinary Day (WVD) takes place annually on the last Saturday of April and this year veterinary professionals from around the world join together on April 24 to celebrate their diverse contributions to the communities in which they serve.

World Veterinary Day (WVD) takes place annually on the last Saturday of April and this year veterinary professionals from around the world join together on April 24 to celebrate their diverse contributions to the communities in which they serve.

Vaccination of dogs against rabies - Help in Suffering, India (Photo: Jack Reece)Approximately 60% of known infectious diseases are common to humans and animals and over the last three decades around 75% of new emerging human infections have been zoonotic. The convergence of people, animals, and our environment has created a new dynamic in which the health of each group is inextricably interconnected: the challenges associated with this dynamic are demanding, profound, and unprecedented. 

With that in mind, the theme for this year’s World Veterinary Day is “One World, One Health:  more cooperation between veterinarians and physicians”.

Professor Bill Reilly is using his term as BVA president to highlight the role of vets in the public good, taking the opportunity to remind the public of the wide variety of important functions performed by vets at home and abroad. 

He said: “When disaster strikes on the other side of the world the men and women who leap into action are hailed as heroes. But I wonder how many people realise that many of those heroes are vets, who rescue and treat the local animal populations that are so vital to the local economy and the opportunities for rebuilding.

BVA president Bill Reilly“Similarly, how many people realise that the food they eat is made safer by vets, that our understanding of zoonotic disease risk is largely thanks to vets, and that society’s response to global climate change will require the expertise of vets in a collaborative approach? Vets across the world should use this year’s World Veterinary Day to reach out to their own community and promote the public good of the profession.”

Karen Reed, chairman of the BVA Overseas Group added: “The remit of the veterinary profession is much broader than one of animal health alone. All over the world, vets are responsible for public health issues which include food safety, biosecurity, zoonotic disease spread and socio-veterinary interactions.

“There is a crucial link between animal health and human health, between livestock and livelihood.  At the Overseas Group’s session at BVA Congress in September we will hear how researchers from the UK and Tanzania are developing effective strategies for controlling foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Africa and how the Scottish-based NGO, GALVmed, works to improve livelihoods in developing countries.”

In the UK one example of the collaboration between vets and medics can be found in the North West Zoonoses Group which was formed in recognition of the importance of zoonotic diseases and the need for extensive communication and cooperation between human and animal health workers. The effective surveillance, control and prevention of zoonotic diseases is a significant challenge and it is intended that the activities of this multi-disciplinary group will go some way towards meeting that challenge.

Rabies bite victim - India (Photo: Dr S Abdul Rahman)A less formal gathering of vets and medics took place recently in South Wales when they joined up for a “Common Problems” evening. Bob Stevenson, a member of the BVA Overseas Group and the BVA representative on the World Veterinary Association (which initiated World Veterinary Day), who organised the meeting, said: “In line with the increasing awareness of the ‘One World – One Health’ concept, an opportunity for developing contacts between members of both medical and veterinary professions, as well as students in clinical years, seems to be highly relevant. By conducting joint meetings involving both professions, the relevance and increasing importance of zoonoses and other issues of mutual importance can be realised.”

Mr Stevenson spoke at the meeting about rabies as a preventable disease and verotoxigenic Escherichia coli 0157 H7 as a cause of serious food poisoning, while medical colleagues presented a review of the transmissible encephalopathies and also revealed a fascinating insight into population medicine in humans exposed to Q fever.

Mr Stevenson added: “This sort of collaboration is greatly beneficial and I would certainly encourage vets to get in touch with local medical colleagues to set up some form of informal group.”

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