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Zoonoses in Europe: a risk to public health

Zoonosen in Europa: risico's voor de volksgezondheid


Infectious diseases originating from animal reservoirs (zoonoses) are a constant threat to public health. Recent examples are the outbreaks of avian influenza and SARS. Although it is unpredictable which zoonoses will emerge in the coming years in Europe, this report aims to summarize current scientific knowledge on the risks of (emerging) zoonoses for human public health in Europe. For this purpose, currently known zoonoses that are more or less likely to cause problems in Europe in the future and risk factors that may be involved in the emergence of zoonoses are listed. Also, European legislation concerning zoonoses and the strengths and weaknesses of the prevention and control of zoonotic diseases are discussed. The emergence of a zoonosis will often be the result of a complex mix of risk factors in which the intensity of contacts between the original reservoir, (the intermediate reservoir and vectors) and human beings seems to be crucial. Prevention and control of the emergence of zoonoses is therefore very difficult and may require a double-edged strategy. On one hand, preparedness needs to be improved as much as possible if it concerns zoonoses that are considered to become a potential risk for public health in Europe (preparing for the known and/or imaginable). On the other hand, public and veterinary health systems and their interaction in Europe need to be strengthened to generate basic scientific knowledge on missing links, to integrate current knowledge and to develop new ways for early warning and outbreak control to prepare as much as possible for new and currently unknown zoonoses. Concerted action at European level is required to respond timely and effectively to zoonoses that threaten public health in Europe.

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