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National Symposium on Zoonoses Research 2015

One Health: Many data available, link missing - Zoonoses Symposium 2015 with focus on Public Health

"There is already a lot of data available, but we still understand too little. The link between the data is missing." This was said by Prof. Dr. Martin Pfeffer (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Leipzig) during a discussion on One Health and new zoonoses on the second day of the National Symposium on Zoonoses Research on 16 October 2015 in Berlin. Prof. Dr. Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit (Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine) emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary cooperation in this context: "We simply cannot do everything ourselves". The symposium was planned and conducted together with representatives of the Public Health Service (ÖGD).

"The results of this discussion are very important for the Public Health Service", said Dr. Ute Teichert (Federal Association of Physicians of the Public Health Service and Director of the Academy for Public Health Düsseldorf). "The natural boundary between humans and exotic wild animals that used to exist is increasingly being broken," explained Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit. "Now we must work even more closely with the Public Health Service."
The most important hubs for the spread of epidemics are the airports in New York, London and Frankfurt: "Infectious diseases caused by highly pathogenic pathogens are introduced via airports practically without exception", said Prof. Dr. René Gottschalk (Frankfurt Office of Public Health). In 2003, the SARS pathogen took only three days to spread over several continents. Gottschalk also pointed out that fever screenings of passengers as they leave the aircraft are worthless for detecting infectious diseases. These had been intensively discussed as a measure to prevent the spread of the Ebola epidemic.

A childhood disease of camels

"MERS is the paradigm for One Health research," said Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten (University of Bonn). Intensive cooperation on an international level was decisive in recently demonstrating that the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS), which causes SARS-like symptoms in humans, is a classical zoonosis: "The infection is mainly transmitted from animals to humans, the feared transmissibility between humans is very limited" - an important finding, not least for the public health service. The researchers were able to show that MERS is a childhood disease of camels. As a public health measure, the vaccination of young camels would therefore be desirable.

Risk assessment: accepting and naming uncertainty

The public health service is always concerned with assessing and weighing up risks. "Short-term risk assessments are essential in the case of new or re-emerging zoonoses - even and especially if the available information is incomplete". This was said by Dr Andrea Ammon of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm. Rapid provision of risk assessments is therefore one of ECDC's key tasks. First assessments are made available within 24 to 48 hours after an outbreak is known. The aim is to assess whether the health authorities need to react and what protective measures are in place.
In particular, it is important to accept and identify the uncertainties. Risk assessments would be updated regularly as events developed and new data were evaluated. In the period from October 2014 to October 2015, 31 risk assessments on zoonoses and only 11 on non-zoonotic diseases had been carried out.

Antibiotic resistance: window of opportunity

Dr. Ute Teichert spoke of a "window of opportunity" to combat the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, in view of the importance of the issue following the publication of the G7 Berlin Declaration a few days ago. The problem has long been a problem for the public health service. Dr. Jürgen Rissland, like Teichert also from the Federal Association of Public Health Doctors, emphasised that the discussion between human and veterinary medicine is very valuable and should be implemented much more strongly on a regional level. 

In addition to the keynote speeches mentioned above, the Symposium 2015 again offered space for numerous other speech and poster contributions by scientists from national and international zoonoses research.

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