losis and malaria, the emergence of these zoonotic diseases represents the potential of rare events with catastrophic consequences, as seen in the HIV epidemic and the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Although news stories tracking the path of cases of H5N1 avian influenza or highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), or describing an outbreak of Ebola in Africa, have captured public attention, they have not always made clear the nature of the threat, the risk of infection, or the tools and structures available to human and animal health authorities to protect the public from infections with these diseases. Human diseases of animal origin—including AIDS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, HPAI, and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, causing new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease)—present threats to human health and animal trade. These and several other zoonotic diseases have emerged recently, as patterns of human–animal contact have been changing in noteworthy ways. Intensifying means of food production, more rapid travel and transport of people and animals across borders and continents, changing patterns of land use, and a host of other factors have contributed to conditions that favor the transmission of pathogens that develop from animal populations and then make the jump into human populations. To date, researchers and public health advocates have focused on surveillance3 as the critical tool for detecting and monitoring outbreaks of zoonotic diseases in human and animal populations, but questions remain as to how to make zoonotic disease surveillance more comprehensive and timely in human and animal populations in order to prevent or minimize the potential for outbreaks to occur in human populations.


With the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council convened the Committee on Achieving Sustainable Global Capacity for Surveillance and Response to Emerging Diseases of Zoonotic Origin to investigate conditions in which these diseases emerge in human and animal populations, and ways to protect the public from them. The charge to the committee is found in Box 1-1. Members of the committee, whose biographies are included as Appendix A, include experts with a wide array of experience in multiple


The World Health Organization defines surveillance as “the systematic ongoing collection, collation, and analysis of data for public health purposes, and the timely dissemination of public health information for assessment and public health response as necessary,” and it may be conducted by institutions of various kinds (WHO, 2008a). These principles would also pertain to animal health surveillance.

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