Surveillance to Catch New Diseases Arising From Climate Change

US - The Alberta Veterinary Surveillance Network (AVSN) is designed to detect important cattle diseases including those that could spread into the province due to climate change.
calendar icon 11 April 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

“We know that climate change may be altering the distribution of disease. We need a surveillance system to detect those diseases,” says Dr. John Berezowski, a veterinary epidemiologist with the food safety division (FSD) of Alberta Agriculture and Food.

AVSN has been designed to be able to identify new diseases that might occur in Alberta’s cattle population as a result of any climate changes occurring in North America. Alberta has systems to detect incursions of these diseases and programs in place to allow prompt response to them.

“One of the main purposes of our surveillance system is to detect new diseases early, before they have a chance to spread,” says Berezowski. “In every devastating outbreak that’s ever happened, whether it was BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), foot-and-mouth disease or avian influenza in Asia, by the time the outbreak was detected, there were so many farms effected that the cost of controlling the disease became huge.”

There are examples of diseases crossing borders around the world, possibly because of climate change. For instance, in Europe, blue tongue disease, which is spread by biting insects, was detected last summer in a number of new countries including France, Switzerland and Belgium. It has been suggested that the range of this disease is expanding because the range of these particular disease-carrying insects has changed.

The AVSN consists of three components that together form an early detection system. The first is the Veterinary Practice Surveillance (VPS) that allows the FSD to collect timely information from veterinarians about the health of cattle. This system is being expanded to include poultry and other livestock.

The other two, the Livestock Pathology Consultation Program (LPCP) and the Livestock Disease Investigation Network (LDIN), involve teams of veterinarians, pathologists and other specialists who investigate and diagnose important or unusual diseases and health problems when needed.

For more information on any of these diseases, click here.

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