Origins of disease

Covid-19 has blanketed the world. Appears it is on global 2020 tour. Affecting humans, animals (reports of deaths in small & big felines), and environment though enormity and/or significance of losses varies. It has influenced our character and disturbed our diurnal rhythm, hormonal release and their bodily journey, sleep-wake cycle, appetite, taste, smell, liking and style. Exophillic turned endophillic, exophagic to endophagic, restaurant lovers to home prisoners, stadium active to bed, lean to bellied, workers to jobless, admins to spectators, computer illiterates to literates, non-professionals to social media COVID experts, chalk board teachers to high-tech tutors, beggars to choosers, idiots to covidiots, I mean all affected save reserved and introverts. They seem to enjoy further isolation and coercive lockdown. People have forgotten festivals, and professionals their profession-specific days. World Veterinary Day Twenty20 (so dear to me given the month long activities we used to have in Veterinary Faculty of which I’m not a part now) too seems to be COVID hit. Alas! But the question is can us (besides our efforts in COVID mitigation) make it big amid COVID terror. It all depends on sincerity and dedication. Let’s wait and watch.

World Veterinary Day Twenty20 is being observed on 25th April (the last Saturday of this month) with the theme “Environmental protection for improving animal and human health”. The World Veterinary Association (largest family of Vets as well as their common voice; guided by its belief in One Health, envisions that collaboration between the veterinary and other professions can ensure that humans, animals, and the environment prosper together – Dr CHIANG, President WVA) and HealthforAnimals has announced the above theme keeping in view the contributions of Vets to health of animals, people and environment. The triad of animal-human-environment health is inextricably linked and any negative change to one will surly affect the other two. Disease burden is considered as the outcome of interplay between environmental change and the transmission cycle of a pathogen. Need is to more clearly define the causal relationships between environmental characteristics and disease transmission cycles, leading to a shift in the prevalence, distribution or severity of infectious diseases. COVID -19 pandemic could well be linked to anthropogenic disturbance of ecological niches. The outbreak epicentre, a wet market in Wuhan China known for selling of wild animals, represents a modification of market micro-environment favouring increased human-animal interaction and possible initial animal to human transmission of SARS-Cov 2.

Vets understand their role and responsibility of safeguarding environment for future generations. Their actions can help mitigate the effects of climate change and the responsible use of natural resources necessary for raising of livestock. In line with the theme, Division of Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Veterinary Faculty, SKUAST-Kashmir in collaboration with Quality Control Laboratory of the Varsity has taken up work on understanding and evaluating the influence of brick kilns on soil-plant-animal health given the fact that livestock productivity and production in Kashmir valley is not up to their potential and multiple causal factors (from nutrition to health measures) may be the reason. Widespread operation of brick kilns since long may also be responsible for multiple heavy metal toxicity and/or trace element deficiency induced ill-health and reduced production in livestock. Brick kilns cause environmental degradation due to emissions of significant quantities of particulates and gaseous pollutants. Chronic intake of heavy metals by human beings and other animals causes nervous system disorders, renal failure, genetic mutations, cancers, respiratory disorders, and cardiovascular, immune system weakening and infertility. So, it is important from ‘One Health’ point of view to assess and monitor heavy metal contamination of soil-pant-animal continuum and examine the sources. No doubt, the J&K Brick Kilns (Regulation) Rules, 2017 makes it clear that the kiln site shouldn’t be detrimental to general public health or to crops, orchards or nurseries in close proximity; shouldn’t be in close vicinity to any inhabited area, religious place or educational institute or any area which is likely to be inhabited; and shouldn’t be at a distance of < 100 metres from any public road (for public education).

Besides the human and material losses COVID-19 shall be remembered for lessoning us the importance of togetherness, beauty of a just system, ephemeral nature of super-inflated egos, and repercussions of trampling of rights of humans, animals and environment. The lava explodes one day with a bang, banging the wrong-doer. Hardly matters which post/position/portfolio you occupy. Hardly matters which place you live in; posh area, a picturesque spot (e.g. Mansbal), remotest periphery (e.g. Kupwara) or a slum. Who knows when COVID-19 terror will leave our hearts, minds and environment? Who knows when the curve gets flattened? Who knows when this quarantine quarantines COVID-19 and we resume the routine?

So considering the on-going lockdown and/or movement restrictions (as part of COVID-19 containment/control program) and advisories for strict adherence to the WHO prescribed guidelines like social (physical) distancing, avoiding gatherings etceteras, possibility of holding event-related activities in Veterinary Colleges and/or Animal/Sheep Husbandry departments looks dim. However, professional ethics and obligations don’t allow for cancellation/complete neglect of WVD 2020. Have to look for workable and acceptable alternatives. Online/virtual mode seems the only viable option. Trust me, not a stolen idea or a stunt but a belief that we can do it. Where there is a will there is a way. Conducting theme-based webinars, quiz competitions, education sessions for students and public health workers, public outreach through newspapers, radio/TV talks, social media etc can at least satiate our appetite for observing World Veterinary Day Twenty20 amid COVID-19 pandemic.

Views are personnel

(Aijaz Ahmad Dar, PhD (Veterinary Medicine) is SMS – Animal Science, KVK Kupwara, SKUAST Kashmir & Arif Mushtaq Bhat is Research Scholar, FVSc & AH, Shuhama Alusteng)