Some scientists argue that, of the more than 30 emerging diseases recognized since 1970, none are truly “new” but instead only newly spread to the human population (Saritelli, 2001). Today, new human behaviors create new risks for animal disease transmission to humans; for example, the feeding of animal by-products to cattle (which are herbivores) allowed BSE to emerge and spread to beef-eating humans, and the xenotransplantation of animal organs into humans raises concerns. The industrialization of food production, while making standardization of food easier, has created opportunities for large-scale microbial colonization in food animals and subsequent large-scale food contamination with pathogens, such as salmonella and E. coli O157:H7. Even when concerns are raised prior to transmission, action is not often taken. For example, it could have been predicted before 2003 that the importation of African rodents, including giant Gambian pouched rats, from areas where rodents are known to carry monkeypox would introduce monkeypox virus into the United States and potentially spread to humans. Today these pouched rats are being trained to detect landmines (Wines, 2004). If these trained rats are sent to various regions of the world to assist with landmine removal but precautions are not taken to ensure that they do not carry the monkeypox virus, monkeypox may spread to rodents and humans elsewhere in the world.
The confluence of people, animals, and animal products within today’s dynamic international context is unprecedented, and we continue to face new microbial threats, as evidence by a recent outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in a group of children who were exposed in a petting zoo, a Marburg virus outbreak in Angola, and the monitoring of H5N1 avian influenza in Southeast Asia as a potential pandemic strain. These concurrent events underscore the importance of new scientific and programmatic partnerships between veterinarians and public health officials and should serve as an impetus for the animal health framework to ensure a new capacity and focus that will address emerging and reemerging zoonoses.
The next three chapters of this report review, summarize, and evaluate the state and quality of the current system for safeguarding animal health and the potential for improved application of scientific knowledge and tools. Chapter 2 provides a general overview of the animal health framework, supplemented by Appendix C, which contains additional details on the existing federal system for addressing animal diseases. Chapter 2 is also intended to supply the context for the entire three-phased initiative, and as such, includes issues relevant to surveillance, monitoring, response, and recovery. Chapter 3 focuses on prevention, detection,