On World Veterinary Day, a University of Sydney-led program is inviting applications from vets and animal handlers across South East Asia to become ‘disease detectives’ in a bid to prevent future pandemics from zoonotic disease, as well as manage animal disease.
The Asia Pacific Consortium of Veterinary Epidemiology (APCOVE), engages with government animal health authorities and educators in eight Indo-Pacific countries – from Timor-Leste to Vietnam – to strengthen their capacities to detect, control, and prevent animal disease outbreaks, like COVID-19 and African swine fever.
Eligible applicants are invited to submit an expression of interest by May 15 to undertake online ‘animal disease detective’ training. A total of 140 candidates will be selected, 35 of whom will receive funding to undertake hands-on projects, including fellowships in Australia. Veterinarians with field experience will be preferred.
Program leader, Associate Professor Navneet Dhand from the University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science, is supported to deliver the program by veterinary epidemiologists from nine veterinary schools, animal health experts from eight target countries and representatives of seven international organisations.
Associate Professor Dhand remarked on the significance of the call for applications on World Veterinary Day. “As we have seen with COVID-19 and African swine fever in the past few years, infectious diseases do not obey national borders,” he said.
“Veterinarians and veterinary epidemiologists are on the front line stopping these contagions at their source.”
APCOVE is funded by Australia’s Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security.
APCOVE Indonesia partner, Dr Imas Yuyun, a veterinarian in the Directorate of Animal Health, said maintaining animal health is vital to the local food system. “One of the duties of the government is to ensure the availability of safe, healthy and wholesome food,” she said.
“One of the ways to ensure this – and maintain disease-free animals – is to train animal health workers.
“In Indonesia, small and medium breeders do not have a large amount of capital, so when their cattle get sick and die, many close their livestock businesses. This is another critical motivation for disease prevention.”
Dr Abrao Jose Pereira, a private veterinarian and researcher from Timor-Leste, similarly hopes the program will improve the livelihood of farmers who rely on subsistence livestock farming. “In a country like Timor-Leste, where the animal health workforce is under-resourced, improving the skills of existing animal health professionals is particularly important,” said Dr Pereira, who co-ordinates input to APCOVE in his country.
Target countries: Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea.
Universities: The University of Sydney, The University of Melbourne, The University of Queensland, Murdoch University, Charles Sturt University, The University of Adelaide, James Cook University, Massey University, The University of Minnesota.
International organisations: World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Department of Livestock Development (DLD), Thailand, and the National Centre for Epidemiology & Population Health (NCEPH).
Hero image: Avian influenza surveillance and practices in live poultry markets - Takeo Province, Cambodia, August - December 2016. Credit: Khechsim Kuy, Cambodia Field Epidemiology Training Program, courtesy of TEPHINET.