"One World, One Health"

WORLD RABIES DAY

ON THE OCCASION OF WORLD RABIES DAY AND IN THE CONTEXT OF ‘VET 2011’ AWARENESS CAMPAIGN DR. MUJEEB FAZILI GIVES US AN INSIGHT INTO THE VETERINARY SCENARIO OF KASHMIR

World Rabies Day
The Global Alliance for Rabies Control has designated September 28 as World Rabies Day. The mission of World Rabies Day is to bring about awareness of the sources of rabies in humans and animals and to provide information on how to prevent exposure.
Rabies is the most fatal infectious disease in the world. The spread of this dreaded zoonotic disease to human beings as well as animals is mostly caused by rabid dog bites. The infection spreads from the exposure site through the nervous system to the brain, eventually causing death if not immediately treated. Each year Rabies claims 55,000 valuable human lives throughout the world (including more than 40% from India), most of them are children. The main source of this fatal disease around the world is uncontrolled Rabies in dogs. It is very important to educate the public on the importance of animal vaccination in addition to the control of the stray dog over population.
This year, veterinary organizations around the world are also celebrating the 250th anniversary of the veterinary profession through a year-long public awareness campaign called 'Vet 2011'. By setting up the world’s first veterinary training institute in Lyon, France, in 1761, Bourgelat created the veterinary profession itself. He was also the first scientist who dared to suggest that studying animal biology and pathology would help to improve our understanding of human biology and pathology. Therefore the current year also marks the 250th anniversary of the concept of comparative pathobiology, without which modern medicine would never have emerged.


Vet 2011 campaign
The goal of the Vet 2011 campaign is to draw attention to the fact that modern veterinarians are not only animal doctors and animal welfare advocates, but also key public health stakeholders. Treating patients who are unable to express their pain in human language is tough for the veterinarians. The job requires immense patience, understanding and, most importantly love for animals. Veterinarians have a crucial role in promoting food security by supervising animal production hygiene, controlling zoonotic diseases, monitoring food quality and safety, contributing to biomedical research, and protecting the environment and biodiversity. They quickly discover an outbreak of some infectious disease which if uncontrolled might bring disaster to countries.
Theme of the Vet 2011 has genuinely been put forth as Vet for health, Vet for food and Vet for the planet. In light of this theme in the following few lines I wish to assess the current veterinary scenario in our valley. The achievements made and the areas that need to be addressed urgently are also pointed out.


Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Activities
The twin development (Animal and Sheep Husbandry) departments along with the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry comprise the main organizations responsible for all veterinary and animal husbandry activities. During last several decades, the departments of Animal and Sheep husbandry have established a net work of veterinary centers. Many of these units manned by qualified veterinarians are providing health cover to the ailing animals. Vaccines against some animal diseases and drugs for prevention of parasitic diseases in the domestic animals are also being supplied at subsidized rates. Up gradation of the low yielding local cattle population by using the artificial insemination technology and cross breeding of the local sheep population to augment wool production have definitely produced some impact in right direction. Despite these achievements, much needs to be done in the control of infectious and non-infectious diseases, parasitism and also in raising the level of animal husbandry practices.
The Veterinary college situated in Srinagar as a subsidiary unit of the Shere Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir has been producing and training veterinarians during last more than two decades. Most of these young vets have been absorbed in the development departments and are engaged in providing health care to the animals both in urban and rural areas. During the recent past most of the pass outs from this faculty have qualified with high ranks the national and state examinations for getting admission in postgraduate professional courses. Many of them have also been able to crack state and union administrative services exams. In addition to teaching, public awareness/clinical camps organized in rural areas and work on a few externally funded research projects by the faculty members is also being carried out.


"One World, One Health"
It has long been known that 60% of known infectious diseases are common to humans and animals (whether domestic or wild); 75% of recent emerging human diseases came from animals and 80% of the pathogens that could potentially be used in bioterrorism are zoonotic. However, the concept "One World, One Health" indicating that the world has awakened to the link between animal diseases and public health much publicized elsewhere has not been given any practical consideration in our state till date. Unfortunately some zoonotic diseases including Brucellosis (Bang’s disease) has affected many practicing veterinarians and para-veterinarians in addition to the animal handlers during last few years. The disease may create serious public health problems in future if some concrete measures are not put in place. It is currently accepted that the only way to minimize the impact of these new hazards is to adapt the existing systems of animal and public health governance at world, regional and national levels in a harmonized and coordinated manner. From the human health perspective, "One World, One Health" should induce all countries to adopt a united approach by veterinarians and human physicians for the control of zoonotic diseases, especially with regard to the prevention and post-exposure treatment of these diseases.


Our streets and stray dogs
Selected theme of this year’s world veterinary day is “Rabies”. The menace of overpopulation of stray dogs in our valley has become a matter of grave concern. Several precious human lives have already been devoured or were chased to death by dogs both in rural and urban areas. The injuries inflicted on the farm and the pack animals leading to their miserable death and disability although not highlighted in the media results in high economic loss to the farmers. A pack of stray dogs suddenly encircling and attacking a herd of sheep results in shock and death of several helpless creatures even without being actually bitten. In our valley, hundreds of human beings (particularly children) and thousands of domestic animals are being presented for treatment of dog bite injuries and for getting post bite vaccination. It has been recognized that prevention at the animal source is the key strategy in dealing with a prevalent and perennial zoonotic disease like Rabies. Upstream control of rabies infection in dogs, including the control of stray dog over population should rank high on the agenda of developing countries, national health and veterinary authorities for efficient prevention of both human and animal mortalities. It has been estimated that only 10% of the financial resources used to treat people after a dog bite would suffice to national veterinary services of the world to eradicate Rabies in animals and stop virtually all human cases. Animal vaccination remains the method of choice to control and eradicate rabies. For ethical, ecological and economic reasons the killing of potential infected animal should not be considered to be the sole method for control and eradication of rabies. As a matter of fact all successful rabies eradication campaigns in the developing world have combined population control of in-excess stray dogs and systemic vaccination of all dogs. Therefore establishment of multiple dog sterilization cum vaccination units are needed for control of Rabies. Development of cheap and quickly accomplished sterilization techniques should be given importance while formulating research plans.


Providing healthy food
Veterinarians in Kashmir have been putting their efforts in various ventures that could lead to making available quality food to the masses. Human populations need a regular diet of protein particularly from milk, eggs or meat, and that a deficiency can also be a public health problem. During last few decades’ significant increase in the number of crossbred cattle (60.32% in Kashmir, 31.20% in Jammu and 23.00% in Ladakh) has been recorded. Artificial insemination of cows using Jersey semen has become popular throughout the valley. Currently the average milk yield in crossbred cattle is 4.7 kg/day (against 3.6 kg/day at national level). Despite many fold increase in human population, milk availability has improved to 366ml/caput/day against nutritional requirement norm of 270ml/caput/day and national average little over 200ml/caput/day. The J&K state is only at 3rd rank in the per capita availability of milk. Despite this achievement, the significant improvements in the production and productivity comprise just the 15% of the real potential of our dairy cattle (they still produce a low of 1,000 liters per lactation against 8000 liters in the developed world). Without expanding the cattle population for reasons of decreased carrying capacity of the land and shrinking resources efforts have to be directed to improve the yield per lactation/cow.
Because of the predominant non-vegetarian food habits, the state is acutely short in animal protein requirements, with a total availability of 344 lac kgs of meat (mutton, chevon, poultry) against a huge requirement of 1100 lac kgs as per the minimum requirements of MCI. Poultry mainly broiler production has gained acceptance in some areas of the valley and has the potential of an agro-based industry. Although beginning has been made in this sector at private level but the gap for attaining self sufficient production is very wide. High cost of the feed ingredients and the day old chicks are the main obstacles. Poultry related imports drain approximately Rs. 400 crore annually from Kashmir to the neighbouring states. The valley has good potential for fisheries especially cold water fishery. The benefits of aquatic resources ranging from wetlands, springs, streams, rivers, lakes in the plains and the high altitudes are yet to be harnessed. Efforts need to be directed to encourage rabbit raring. Raising buffaloes for beef production has also not been tried.
The food produced has to be of a quality that would not only fill the belly but should provide balanced diet and must not carry disease causing germs, pesticide and antibiotic residues. This would then only reduce the nutrition related diseases in the masses. In Kashmir, unfortunately food processing, packaging and preservation have not been initiated. Additionally procurement, processing and preservation of dairy products following scientific principles at a large scale are still an unfulfilled dream. Modern abattoirs meant for making available diseases-free meat (ensured by strict inspection and supervision by qualified veterinarians) have also not been established.


Conservation and preservation
Environmental protection and promotion, wildlife conservation is one of the essential duties of every veterinarian. The unprecedented movement of commodities and people between nations provides opportunities for pathogens to spread and multiply. Further, climate change can enable pathogens to extend their range, notably through vectors, such as insects colonizing new areas that up until a few years ago were too cold for them to survive the winter. More than 90% of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is mountainous. Its meadows and pasture lands sustain pastoral live stock husbandry. Transhumance of sheep, goats, yak and ponies is practiced by Gujars and Gaddi nomads. Changes in the ecological system of the meadows and forest lands need to be assessed at regular intervals. Preservation of these areas along with their up gradation has to be given due attention.
Transportation is a vital problem in the rugged and forested regions of our state. Instead of laying net work of macadamized roads into the depths of thick forests the up gradation of the pony, double humped camel and yak population and their use as a natural, environment friendly means of transport would definitely help in saving our environment. These animals can also be exploited for tourism promotion.
In the recent past wild animal-human conflict in the nook and corner of the valley has assumed enormous significance due to the damage caused to humans, domestic animals as well as to the already dwindling /endangered population of the wild animals. Unfortunately our state animal the Hangul is losing its battle to survive in its homeland.
Jammu and Kashmir state although bestowed with meadows and water bodies, variety of useful livestock, wild fauna and fish and a climate suitable to harness optimum benefits from animals better than crops, has yet to make progress in achieving the goals of ‘one health’ and  ‘food security’. The realization of the growth and stability in animal sector is all the more important in this hilly and mountainous state wherein the agricultural practices are restricted to just 7% of the total land and are confronted with insurmountable problems including ever increasing non-agricultural use of the land and vagaries of fragile climate, it has virtually started showing signs of fatigue. The departments of Animal husbandry, Sheep husbandry, Fisheries and Wild life protection provide a sound base to transmit new technologies to the field. However, their mandate and resources are not directed towards extensive research. The research conducted elsewhere could not always be applied in our region. The geophysical and climatic peculiarities, adaptability of the different local animal species and the local environmental concerns have to be considered at all levels of planning and implementation. In fact, there is urgent need of an independent, structured organizational base with suitable human resources and sufficient financial allocations directed to explore the ways and means for harnessing optimum benefit from locally available variety of animal resources.


Establishing Veterinary and Animal Science University
Innumerable potential areas including preparation of a sound breeding policy for the live stock, augmenting disease free meat, milk, fish and egg production, evaluation and up gradation of the locally available feed and fodder, disease forecasting, diagnosis, treatment and prevention in animals, exploring ways to improve the number, conformation, health and output from endangered double humped camel and ignored equines and Pashmina goats, developing mechanism of saving vanishing Kashmiri Hangul, combating  man-animal conflict etc could be effectively addressed by setting up of an independent Veterinary and Animal Science University in Srinagar. The veterinary college located in Srinagar established as subsidiary unit to the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology is currently giving major attention to produce quality veterinary graduates and a few post graduates. The total teachers/scientists even for under graduate teaching is already short by around 40% of the minimum number recommended by Veterinary Council of India (VCI). As the application of veterinary knowledge is essential to the wellbeing of the animal industry, by establishment of a university this education would be raised to the highest level possible. Insufficient infra structure and resources to undertake research in numerous animal sector areas related to health, food security and the environment that require immediate attention cannot be expected from this small institution. Considering the potential of the animal sector in providing health, sustainable food and employment security to our present and future generations it would be right time for the government to announce the establishment of Veterinary University in Srinagar during this Vet-2011 year. It may be pertinent to mention that more than a dozen of veterinary universities have already been established in different states of India. Wide diversity in useful animal species, peculiarities in geographical and climatic conditions along with unique food habits of ever increasing human population in Kashmir demand an independent institution of not less than a university that would strive for better life of future human generations by addressing animal sector issues in time.
Dr. Mujeeb Fazili is Associate Professor (Surgery), at SKUAST-K, Srinagar. Reach him at fazili_mr@yahoo.co.in

Lastupdate on : Tue, 27 Sep 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 27 Sep 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 28 Sep 2011 00:00:00 IST




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