'Animal disease detective' training launched at World Health Summit

18 October 2023
Free eLearning modules will help prevent spread of infectious disease
With the risk of zoonotic diseases, such as coronaviruses and avian flu, on the rise, training a new generation of animal disease detectives at the frontline is vital to help prevent disease.
APCOVE fellow Elaine Hevoho from Papua New Guinea.

APCOVE fellow Elaine Hevoho from Papua New Guinea.

The University of Sydney-led Asia Pacific Consortium of Veterinary Epidemiology (APCOVE) launched its world-class field training package on the sidelines of the World Health Summit in Berlin today. The package is designed to help veterinary practitioners and animal handlers detect and prevent infectious diseases in the field before they emerge as pandemics.

The launch took place during the Global Field Epidemiology Partnership (GFEP) meeting as part of events around the World Health Summit.

APCOVE Lead, Associate Professor Navneet Dhand in Berlin

APCOVE Leader, Associate Professor Navneet Dhand from the Sydney School of Veterinary Science announced the modules at the meeting. He said: “This is the biggest resource for field veterinary epidemiology training globally. And it is now available free of cost for anyone.

“It provides a valuable resource for veterinary services around the globe to strengthen the capacity of their workforces to detect, prevent and contain infectious disease threats.”

“The risk of zoonotic diseases transferring from livestock and wildlife to humans is increasing, as shown by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Associate Professor Dhand said.

“So, training new generations of animal disease detectives at the frontline is vital to help prevent diseases wiping out livestock or infecting humans.”

The package comprises 36 eLearning modules on outbreak investigation, surveillance, data analysis, risk assessment, disease control, biosecurity, One Health, leadership and communication. The modules have been prepared by the collective efforts of more than 40 APCOVE partners from all veterinary schools in Australia and New Zealand, one veterinary school from the US and eight countries in the Asia Pacific over the past three years.

More than 40 APCOVE partners from 11 countries have contributed to developing the training package.

More than 40 APCOVE partners from 11 countries have contributed to developing the training package.

The training units have been developed and tested in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and Vietnam. The modules have also been translated and are available in Lao, Khmer, Bahasa Indonesia, Vietnamese and Burmese.

Associate Professor Dhand said: “It has only been possible to develop this valuable resource due to the collaborative effort of enthusiastic epidemiologists from several countries and organisations committed to strengthening health security and preventing the next pandemic.”

The modules have been released under the Creative Commons license and are available free of cost for anyone from the following website:

This work was funded by the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security of the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Dr Lucas de Toca, Head of the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security, said: “The spread of infectious diseases in animals and people has huge health, economic and social impacts.

“Australia is proud to have supported APCOVE’s work to develop high-quality, open-access training materials to help build capacity in our region and beyond to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks.”

APCOVE visiting fellows

APCOVE visiting-fellows (left to right): Geraldson Navarra-(Philippines), Melanie Flores Pescadilla (Philippines), and Elaine Hevoho (Papua New Guinea).

Associate Professor Jenny-Ann Toribio, Joint Director of APCOVE and Associate Head of Veterinary Professional Education in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science, said: “This training package will strengthen pre-border biosecurity, which involves improving disease prevention in our region. It is very important to protect Australia from transboundary diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, lumpy skin disease and African swine fever.

“The Sydney School of Veterinary Science is proud to lead this collaborative effort. We have a long history of training veterinarians and strengthening veterinary capacity in the region. The release of this package is a great new step in the same direction,” she said.

Professor Annette Burgess, Chair eLearning Committee of APCOVE, said: “We put in a lot of effort to ensure that the modules are high quality. The modules have interactive features and include images, videos, case studies and scenarios to make them interesting for users and to help with their learning. We used them in training more than 90 veterinary personnel from the Asia Pacific during 2022 and updated them based on the user feedback.”

APCOVE can share the back end of these modules with organisations interested in adapting the resource to the context of their training programs in the health and veterinary sectors if they make the updated versions available under the same Creative Commons license.

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