Published since 1946
Ongoing Disease Issues Increase Urgency of Improved Wildlife Health Surveillance
In 2022, the United States has ongoing zoonotic diseases that have made national news: SARS-CoV-2 (a strain of coronavirus), HPAI (a strain of avian influenza), and Monkeypox (a viral disease). It should be noted that HPAI has had only two reported cases in humans, according to CDC. These diseases, in addition to ongoing concerns about non-zoonotic diseases, such as Chronic Wasting Disease, epizootic hemorrhage disease, White-nose syndrome, snake fungal disease (Ophidiomycosis), and RHDV-2 (a rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus) have kept wildlife health professionals and their counterparts in human health and livestock health scrambling to protect the health of all. The call for greater collaboration and coordination of efforts across the disciplines of wildlife health, livestock health, and human health has increased, and efforts are underway to address the underlying issues.
Unfortunately, our societal response has been to react to these emerging issues in a crisis-driven manner. Society wants a solution quickly. At first notice, our affected public questions whether the issue is real and important. Our professional response, often using the best available science at the time, provides a set of recommended steps but the response evolves as new scientific information develops. Then differences of opinion on management approaches appear and our public questions whether the proposed response is appropriate. Frequently, a wide variety of actions are implemented that are intended to affect the prevalence and spread of the disease.
To move from reactive responses to proactive measures, building capacity for surveillance of novel and re-emerging pathogens in fish and wildlife populations will be necessary. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) Resolution 2022-02-04 on a “One Health Approach” to human and wildlife health includes a whereas statement that “over 60% of known infectious diseases in people can be spread by animals and up to 75% of new or emerging pathogens come from animals.” It would seem foundational to any effort to increase surveillance capacity in fish and wildlife agencies if more efficient and effective collaboration is the desired outcome.
The broader strategy for state and federal fish and wildlife action was outlined in AFWA’s National Fish and Wildlife Health Initiative Toolkit, published in 2008. To take sentences directly from that report: “Responsibility and authority for conserving fish and wildlife resources rest in state and federal natural resource management agencies. Public trust stewardship is the very cornerstone of North American natural resource management as fish and wildlife are common property of the citizens of each state. Thus, successful fish and wildlife health programs must necessarily be centered in the states as well… Regardless of the structure of a state’s fish and wildlife health program, cooperation among local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal public health, domestic animal health, and natural resources agencies will invariably be essential because of overarching issues, shared regulatory authority, and limited resources. The greatest opportunities for addressing significant local health issues will be in programs where the state fish and wildlife management agency prioritizes the issues and collaborates with other governmental and nongovernmental organizations to address them. Through this approach, state fish and wildlife management agencies will improve their understanding and management of diseases, develop and share data useful to others, and maximize the financial, technological, and human resources that inevitably will be limited.”
Although the topic isn’t new, our community has undergone great change since 2008. Hopefully the 2008 report can help inform current and future efforts.