Health security cooperation also covers animal diseases

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 29.6.2015 12.02
News item

Human and animal health are seamlessly interconnected. Bio-threats, various infectious diseases and animal diseases do not comply with national borders, and health security is not a matter belonging to the health sector only. Bio-threats can be natural or caused deliberately. Therefore the fight against global bio-threats and their effective prevention require broad-based intergovernmental cooperation.

Animal diseases and infectious diseases transmissible from animals to humans, i.e. zoonoses, will be discussed by the Steering Group of Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) at their meeting in Paris on 29 June. The meeting will be organised in connection with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) World Conference on Biological Threat Reduction. The Steering Group meeting will be chaired by Ms Päivi Sillanaukee, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Affairs, and Ms Jaana Husu-Kallio, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

New zoonoses have caused significant international health threats in recent years. The latest example is MERS coronavirus, which causes severe pneumonia. The virus, first found in the Arabian Peninsula, has caused a large-scale local epidemic in South Korea during the past month. So far 180 people have fallen ill from infections occurring in hospitals and 29 of them have died during the epidemic. It has become necessary to place thousands of exposed people in isolation or quarantine.

Health security cannot rest on the health sector only. Therefore cooperation between different sectors needs to be strengthened. Cooperation between the administrative sectors of health, agriculture, defence, development as well as interior and foreign administration is essential. Is is also vitally important that international organisations participate in promoting the health security. Valuable cooperation is already carried out in the fields of human, animal and environmental health, for example under the concept of One Health, where health is considered on a broad basis regarding both humans and animals.

The GHSA programme is a cooperative forum of 44 countries and central international organisations. It aims to improve national preparedness and health systems'  functional capacity in order to combat infectious diseases. The programme also gives non-governmental organisations, NGOs, a role in combating cross-border bio-threats and infectious diseases. The activities of NGOs during the Ebola epidemics in Western Africa showed how important it is to understand local circumstances when treating large-scale epidemics.

World Health Organization WHO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO, World Organisation for Animal Health OIE, Interpol, World Bank and the European Commission participate in the GHSA programme. The programme supports the implementation of WHO and OIE standards of veterinary medicine in member states. Finland chairs the Steering Group in 2015.

Further information:

Ms Outi Kuivasniemi, Ministerial Counsellor for International Affairs, p. +358 2951 63117 (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health)

Ms Marjatta Rahkio, Veterinary Counsellor, p. +358 50569 0522 (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry)