A consortium of veterinary scientists has been established to train a new generation of animal disease detectives in 11 countries across South East Asia and the Pacific.
University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science and Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity Associate Professor and program leader Navneet Dhand said equipping veterinarians with the tools for disease outbreak investigation and surveillance had never been more important.
The scientific consortium includes more than 40 experts from veterinary schools across Australia, New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific.
"The coronavirus outbreak has underlined how urgent this work is," Mr Dhand said.
"The majority of emerging infectious diseases, such as coronaviruses, are zoonotic - they spread from animals to humans.
"To protect humans from these diseases we must look for pathogens and disease 'upstream' in domestic animals and wildlife before they spread to the human population."
Mr Dhand said the consortium would engage with government animal health authorities and educators in the Asia-Pacific region to strengthen the capacity to detect, respond, control and prevent animal disease outbreaks that could affect human health, animal health and farmer livelihoods.
- How is the wool supply chain dealing with coronavirus?
- Coronavirus to impact major wool consuming countries' economies
The program is funded by the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
"Our program will support our neighbours' efforts to deal with these emerging threats and in doing so, strengthen Australia's biosecurity, health and economy," he said.
Researchers emphasised that while this coronavirus had its origins in an animal transfer, there was no evidence the COVID-19 virus could be contracted from pets or other animals.
Mr Dhand said transboundary animal diseases, which travelled quickly across borders, and zoonotic diseases, which transfer from animals to humans, were increasing in frequency due to a range of factors, including population growth, urbanisation, land-use change, encroachment into wild habitats and increasing global air travel.
"These diseases can spread rapidly across borders and have huge economic and health impacts; we are finding this out right now with coronavirus," he said.
He said they would work with international partners by strengthening on-the-job training for veterinarians and para-veterinarians.
"Our focus on disease surveillance will support veterinary authorities to identify any change in animal health patterns so that early intervention and preventative actions can be taken to stop the spread of disease," he said.
Alongside the on-site training, veterinarians and para-veterinarians will be offered project work with their in-country animal health ministries.
Selected candidates will be provided with fellowships for further training in Australia's world-class veterinarian schools.
The story Animal disease detectives to be trained across South East Asia first appeared on Farm Online.