Wednesday, 11 October 2017 14:55

Vaccines control disease in people, livestock

Written by  Mark Ross
Herd vaccinations are vital to prevent the spread of leptospirosis. Herd vaccinations are vital to prevent the spread of leptospirosis.

Vaccination is the most effective way to protect against life-threatening diseases such as distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and leptospirosis that affect New Zealand animals.

NZ rates of leptospirosis are among the world’s highest, says the NZ Veterinary Association (NZVA). The zoonotic disease afflicts rats, dogs, pigs, cattle and people.  It puts farmers, particularly dairy farmers, at risk as it can spread from infected urine in dairy sheds.  It is also an occupational risk for meat workers, who can contract the disease in the same way. NZVA says anyone in contact with cattle could be at risk.

Cases of leptospirosis fell sharply after herd vaccinations were introduced in 1981. But Radio NZ reported recently that 91 people had contracted the disease in the first half of 2017 and at least two-thirds were hospitalised. Incidence of the disease has tripled in the first half of 2017, worrying health experts. One possible reason for the spike is the recent wet weather and contaminated flood-waters; water can carry the disease.

To overcome the increase in infection and break the cycle, robust herd vaccination is essential, along with personal hygiene.

The spread of disease between humans and animals isn’t going away.  As global population rises, the risk of zoonotic diseases spreading will increase as humans and animals live closer together; and food sources and agriculture are coming under great pressure.

In human medicine, vaccines have eradicated diseases such as smallpox and polio. Smallpox used to cause death worldwide. Thanks to widespread use of the vaccine, the last natural case of smallpox occurred in 1977. In 1980 the World Health Organization declared that the disease had been wiped out.

Vaccines have also helped reduce the number of new diphtheria and measles infections to 95% of peak incidence rates.

Vaccination has profoundly influenced and improved human and animal health worldwide and will continue to be a fundamental tool to meet health challenges.

The medicines and vaccines produced by the animal health industry have been strikingly successful in controlling many diseases.

As the industry association that represents animal health manufacturers of NZ, we seen that supporting the health and well-being of pets, livestock, people and the environment is of vital importance. To this end, Agcarm supports the global One Health campaigns addressing antimicrobial resistance, zoonosis and vaccination.

Advances in technology are allowing the development of new vaccines such as the recent creation of a vaccine against the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) in cats.

Continuous spending on breakthrough technologies and innovation is imperative to control diseases among animals and their spread to humans, as are appropriate government strategies for eradicating disease.

To ensure people and animals remain healthy and productive, we must continue to use and develop vaccines to limit the spread of disease.

• Mark Ross is the chief executive of Agcarm, the industry association for crop protection, animal health and rural supply businesses.

 

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