The month of April includes Public Health Week. Did you know that veterinarians play key roles in public health?
When most people think of veterinarians, a person practicing animal medicine and surgery in private practice comes to mind. But some veterinarians work for their states or at the Center for Disease Control in Washington, DC. The application of veterinary science is extremely important in public health.
Three quarters of all the new human diseases identified in the past decade have come from animal pathogens (microbes such as viruses which cause disease) or animal products. Zoonotic diseases (illnesses that pass from animals to humans), including Rabies among many others, still affect millions of people every year worldwide.
Public health veterinarians identify, monitor, study, control, and work to prevent outbreaks of zoonotic diseases. Public health veterinarians are integral in the protection of the health of our food animals and ultimately the humans who consume them. Public health veterinarians also protect the water supply, manage wild animal populations, and help manage public health emergencies.
A recent example of veterinarians identifying and stopping a deadly zoonotic disease is the story of the discovery of the Ebola virus in a research monkey at a quarantine facility in Virginia just 15 miles from Washington, DC. The actions of a few veterinarians and research scientists prevented an extremely contagious, deadly, and zoonotic virus from spreading to the American public.
Currently, veterinarians are teaming up with physicians, research scientists, dentists, nurses, and representatives from all aspects of healthcare to form the One Health Initiative. This initiative seeks collaboration between all health-related disciplines to better the health of humans, animals, and the environment and recognizes that the health of each of these affects the others. Public health veterinarians are key players in the improvement of the health triad, humans-animals-environment.
Dr. Kelly Kasum is an associate veterinarian at East Towne Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Kelly has practiced general small animal medicine and surgery in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin.