The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and its partners are in the middle of an initiative that goes by the name "One Health." Have you heard of it? The basic premise is that human, animal, and environmental health and well-being are inescapably connected.

The AVMA cites the following factors to highlight the importance of One Health.

  • The world's total population exceeded 7 billion people in 2011, and it continues to climb.
  • As our population expands geographically, the contact between human and wild animal habitats increases, introducing the risk of exposure to new viruses, bacteria, and other disease-causing pathogens.
  • Advancing technologies and science-based evidence is increasing the awareness, knowledge, and understanding of the interdependency of the health of humans, animals, and the environment.
  • The human-animal bond continues to grow throughout societies.
  • It is estimated that at least 75 percent of emerging and re-emerging diseases are either zoonotic (spread between humans and animals) or vector-borne (carried from infected animals to others through insects).
  • Vigilant protection of our food and feed supplies from food-borne diseases, contamination, and acts of terrorism is critical for human and animal health.
  • Contamination by personal care products and pharmaceuticals has been detected in our waters.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to update you on two recent Fully Vetted posts that fit perfectly into the One Health initiative.

We talked about emerging issues with the zoonotic disease rabies here along the Front Range of Colorado. The problem has been worsening throughout the summer. Last week, a rabid raccoon was killed by dogs just a few miles from my house. Thankfully, those dogs were up to date on their rabies vaccines. They have been receiving boosters and are under home observation for 45 days. If they hadn’t been adequately vaccinated, they most likely would have been euthanized.

Rabies has never been diagnosed in raccoons in my county before. Since early May, officials have confirmed rabies in 21 skunks, six bats, and one bison, in addition to the historic raccoon. The number of animals that have died from rabies infection but have not been tested for it is unknowable. As a result of this current rabies outbreak, signs are posted at most of our local parks alerting residents to the importance of keeping their dogs on leashes, pets vaccinated, and children educated about not approaching wildlife. We’re all hoping that with increased vigilance we’ll be able to avoid any human cases of rabies.

And on the subject of contaminated food supplies, the Center for Disease Control now says that it has received reports of 49 individuals from 20 states and Canada who have been infected with Salmonella through contact with recalled pet foods made at the Diamond Pet Foods facility in Gaston, South Carolina. This is a perfect example of how deficiencies in safety protocols that, on the surface at least, would appear to be aimed at protecting animals, are adversely affecting human (and pet) health.

It’s sometimes easy to get tunnel-vision, but people with expertise in the areas of human, animal, and environmental health must work together for the benefit of all. The goals of One Health include:

  • more interdisciplinary programs in education, training, research, and established policy
  • more information sharing related to disease detection and diagnosis, as well as education and research
  • more prevention of diseases; both infectious and chronic diseases
  • new therapies and approaches to treatment for unmet needs

What’s not to like? Check out the One Health website for more information.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Emir Simsek / via Shutterstock