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U.S. Identifies Its Top 8 Zoonotic Diseases of Concern

Six out of every 10 infectious diseases in people are zoonotic—meaning they can be transmitted between animals and people. This makes it crucial for the Nation to strengthen its capabilities to prevent and respond to these diseases using a One Health Approach. One Health recognizes the connection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment and calls for experts in human, animal, and environmental health to work together to achieve the best health outcomes for all.

In December 2017, NWRC research biologist Dr. Sarah Bevins and other disease experts from USDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of the Interior participated in the One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization Workshop for the United States. Their goal was to prioritize the top zoonotic diseases of national concern (see inset) and make recommendations for next steps using a One Health approach.

“This workshop was the first time multiple government agencies in the United States worked together on this topic,” states Bevins. “It is a step towards a coordinated U.S.-specific approach to zoonotic infections. Many of the diseases on the list, such as influenza, plague and rabies, are already being studied or monitored by Wildlife Services. This makes us well-positioned to address these issues going forward."

Workshop participants also compiled a list of potential next steps for a multi-agency One Health framework. They include: 1) increasing leadership engagement in the One Health approach, 2) establishing a core group of experts to serve on a formal One Health Coordinating Committee or other mechanism, 3) developing a common vision and goals, 4) improving knowledge and data sharing, 5) strengthening joint investment, 6) identifying research gaps and needs, 7) coordinating messaging, and 8) coordinating outbreak response plans.

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