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A typical family in Africa is surrounded by animals whether domestic pets or livestock. In most cases, you will find that people who work in the cities have farms back home in the villages where they rear livestock. These are viewed as investments for when they retire. A case point is Karanja, a senior executive who works in Nairobi but has a family farm in Naivasha where he keeps cows, pigs and chickens. Karanja’s job involves frequent international travel but he relies on a farm hand and his younger brother to take care of the animals when he is not around. Back in the city, Karanja’s boy Otieno has a pet parrot, which he often takes with him to his father’s farm whenever they visit.

The life of Karanja’s immediate and extended family typifies the interrelationship between man, domestic animals and the environment. Whether through: the keeping of pets, wildlife tourism, global trade in plants and animals, increased consumption of improperly handled food or through climate change – humans face increased risk of zoonotic diseases in a globalised world.

Climate change influences factors that can enhance increased population and diversity of diseases carrying organisms i.e. vectors. This interaction between susceptible humans, host animals and the environment is now a subject of public health concern in view of increasing and emerging vector-borne zoonotic diseases such as Lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis, Rift valley fever, Leishmaniasis etc. Vector-borne diseases are transmitted to humans by an animal (the vector). Such vectors include, for instance, arthropods like ticks and mosquitoes. However, vectors can also be any animal that can transmit a pathogen to a human host. Most vector-borne diseases are also zoonotic diseases i.e. they can transmit disease from animals to man. Veterinarians by virtue of their training are very critical in the control of animal diseases.

However, efforts to either prevent or control such diseases require harmonised, coordinated global approach among veterinarians, medical doctors, wildlife biologists, livestock farmers and community-based health workers; as well as effective early warning systems. The Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) facilitates sustainable access of resource-poor livestock producers to good quality and affordable, animal health products, vaccines and diagnostics through public-private partnership. By making animal health solutions available to poor livestock producers in developing countries, GALVmed is contributing to the control livestock diseases, especially vector-borne diseases, safer food and improved livelihood of livestock producers such as Karanja.

This post was originally written as part of World Veterinary Day focusing on Vector-borne diseases with Zoonotic potential. Vector-borne zoonotic diseases are becoming a major public health concern in fact Scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals. At GALVmed, we work on a number of zoonotic diseases not only to protect livestock from these diseases but humans as well.