May 25, 2009

Animal Diseases Are Increasing With Climate Change

The world's top agency for animal health said on Monday that climate change is widening viral disease among farm animals, expanding the spread of some microbes that are also a known risk to humans, AFP reported.

A survey of 126 member-states found 71 percent were "extremely concerned" about the expected impact of climate change on animal disease, according to The World Animal Health Organization"”known as OIE, an acronym of its name in French.

Among those surveyed, 58 percent said they had already identified at least one disease that was new to their territory or had returned to their territory, and that they associated with climate change.

Bluetongue, which is spread among sheep by biting midges; Rift Valley fever, a livestock disease that can also be picked up by people handling infected meat; and West Nile virus, which is transmitted by mosquito from infected birds to both animals and humans were the three most mentioned diseases.

OIE Director General Bernard Vallat said in a statement that more and more countries are indicating that climate change has been responsible for at least one emerging or re-emerging disease occurring on their territory.

The statement said: "This is a reality we cannot ignore and we must help veterinary services throughout the world to equip themselves with systems that comply with international standards of good governance so as to deal with this problem."

The Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN's Nobel-winning experts, issued a landmark report in 2007 that warned changing weather patterns could widen the habitat of disease-bearing insects.

The IPCC said this would have repercussions for human health, in such areas as malaria and dengue fever.

The agency is based in Paris and has 174 member countries and territories; it is a clearinghouse of scientific information on livestock and sets down guidelines for sanitary safety and welfare in farm animals.


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