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Report of the 82nd General Session of the OIE

82nd General Session of the OIE

Paris, France

25-30 May 2014




Participation of Veterinary Chief of Staff Philippe Ulmer at the 82nd General Session of the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) in Paris from May 25 to 30, 2014.

Description of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)
In 1920, there was an occurrence of rinderpest in Belgium, as a result of the importation of zebus (carriers of the disease), originating from South Africa, through the port of Antwerp. This episode sparked the creation of the OIE (Office International des Epizooties) in 1924, comprised of 28 States. The organization has been based in Paris since this time. In 2003, The OIE took the name of the World Organisation for Animal Health, but kept the acronym OIE. Today in 2014, this assembly is celebrating its 90 years. Its Director-General is Bernard Vallat. The President is Karin Schwabenbauer.

Role of the OIE
From the very start, international cooperation and coordination to fight against the spread of animal diseases have had a two-pronged approach: the collection of information on disease events and the publication of this information, as well as the development of scientific standards and guidelines to ensure the safety of the trade of live animals and their products.
As a result, the normative documents and recommendations developed by OIE have been designed to facilitate and encourage international trade.
The main normative works are the OIE Terrestrial Health Code and the Aquatic Health Code, dealing respectively with terrestrial animals and aquatic animals, along with the accompanying Terrestrial Animal Manuel and Aquatic Animal Manual.
These codes are indispensable works of reference for veterinary authorities, decision-makers in import and export and for all those working in international trade.
The adoption in 1995 of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), under the aegis of the World Trade Organization, strengthened and reinforced the standard-setting work of the OIE by placing it within the legal framework of international trade, applicable to all members of the WTO today. This agreement is, therefore, a recognition of the OIE as the reference organization for standards for sanitary and phytosanitary measures relating to animal health and animal diseases.
OIE is also the organization which delivers the official recognition of disease status of countries for various diseases – for example, rabies disease-free status, foot and mouth disease-free status..…and granting of this status is important for the trade of live animals or their products.

Program of the 82nd General Session of the OIE
The Assembly was held from May 25 to May 30, 2014 at the Maison de la Chimie, 28 rue St Dominique in Paris.

The World Assembly brings together the official representatives of 178 Member Countries of the OIE, of which 150 attended. During the Assembly, two new Member Countries were admitted: Liberia and South Sudan, bringing the total membership to 180 countries.

Every year, the General Session (also known as the World Assembly) establishes a summary of the situation regarding the main current animal diseases and adopts revisions or additions to the different codes.

The program for this Assembly was particularly rich, with meetings planned every day from 09:00 to 18:30. The main elements of each day’s meetings are summarized as follows:

- Sunday May 25: Inaugural addresses. Particularly of note were the speeches given by the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan and by José Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). They reiterated the need for the concept of One Health, as expressed by the Director-General of OIE, taking as an example the work on avian influenza, rabies and antimicrobial resistance.

Addresses were given by 10 Ministers of Agriculture (Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Germany, Iran, Oman, Uruguay, Korea, Laos, and Senegal). The welcome address on behalf of the French Ministry of Agriculture was given by Mr. Patrick Dehaumont, Director-General for Food, and also Chief of Veterinary Services (reserve) for the Armed Forces Health Services.

- Monday, May 26: First Plenary Session. Annual report of the Director General on the Activities of the OIE in 2013.

- Tuesday, May 27: Technical items: African swine fever, followed by reports on the activities of the specialist commissions, in particular that of the Scientific Commission for Animal Diseases.

- Wednesday, May 28: Report on the activities of the Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Commission.

- Thursday, May 29: Presentation on current events and trends in the animal health situation world-wide and attribution of animal health status certificates.

- Friday, May 30: in the morning, meetings reserved for permanent delegates. In the afternoon, applications for membership and adoption of resolutions submitted during the Assembly (modifications to the codes and manuals).

News on animal diseases
116 diseases are tracked by OIE using WAHIS,a computer system that processes data, alerts and informs Member Countries. Any person can consult the website of OIE to gain information and alerts on the animal health situation of any country.

Presentations were given on the current situation and on trends in world animal health between 2005 and April 25, 2014.
We can see a trend towards an increase in the number of countries sending notifications to OIE between 2006 and 2010, which should continue for the years 2012 and 2013. The amount of information collected by OIE has also tended to increase for all diseases, infections and infestations. On average, 170 alert messages are received every year.

For eight critically important diseases: world trends since 2005:

Rabies virus infection
The percentage of countries sending notifications to OIE affected by rabies remains relatively stable, with 60% of countries/territories notifying OIE between 2005 and 2013.
99 countries/territories reported infection from the virus in wildlife between 2009 and April 2014. These animals may be reservoir species (members of the order Carnivora and Chiroptera) or other species affected by the virus. It is interesting to note that for the Americas, most countries have notified cases in wildlife of the order Chiroptera, whereas in other regions, notifications of disease in wildlife have involved the order Carnivora.
Unlike many other diseases, we have all the necessary tools to control rabies, even to eradicate it. Control measures include the population control of stray dogs, parenteral vaccination of animals, along with human vaccination. Moreover, it is possible to vaccinate the wildlife population using oral vaccination, as has been successfully implemented in several countries, particularly in Europe. Rabies has indeed been successfully controlled and eradicated in some countries. In 2013, for example, OIE published the self-declaration of rabies disease-free status for Malaysia and the recovery of disease-free status for Italy and Estonia.

African swine fever
African swine fever is a non-zoonotic infectious disease of domestic and wild swine. The disease is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa and has now reached Eastern Europe. Data for April 25, 2014 shows that it continues to be found in Belorussia, Lithuania and Russia. In early 2014, occurrences were recorded in Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland. The current situation of African swine fever in Eastern Europe presents a constant risk of propagation of the disease in Europe and in Asia, particularly by means of transmission that are difficult to control, such as wandering wild boar, illegal transportation of animals and/or products of animal origin and movement of contaminated vehicles or other contaminated equipment.

Foot and mouth disease
Foot and mouth disease is caused by a picornavirus and is highly contagious. The disease affects cloven-hoofed mammals, particularly cattle, swine, sheep, as well as over 100 species of wild animals.
The disease is present almost everywhere in the world and has a huge economic impact when an outbreak is declared in a country which had previously been disease-free.
In 2013 and early 2014, 26 exceptional disease events were notified to OIE. The strain A was newly notified in March 2013 in China, then in April and June 2013 in Tibet. Russia also notified OIE of foot and mouth disease, in March 2013, in a region adjacent to Georgia.

Infection due to avian influenza virus
Avian influenza has caused considerable economic losses to the poultry industry. In addition, the influenza virus infections are a threat to public health. This has been shown particularly with the emergence of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian virus, the pandemic H1N1 2009 virus and, more recently, the low pathogenic avian influenza virus (H7N9). Waterfowl seem to be the host reservoir of the different avian influenza viruses and these populations generally carry the viruses asymptomatically.
The percentage of countries reporting the presence of avian influenza sub-types H5 and H7 was lower for the period between 2006 and 2013.
2014 has seen the emergence of a new avian influenza virus. In January, Korea and Japan notified OIE of the reappearance of HPAI, type H5N8.

Infection due to peste des petits ruminants virus
Infection by the peste des petits ruminants virus (PPR) is an acute contagious disease caused by a morbillivirus (in the family of paramyxoviruses). The disease naturally affects mainly sheep and goats and can occasionally affect small wild ruminants. PPR can, in its acute form, cause mortality in a herd from 80% to 100%. The virus is highly contagious and can only be transmitted by direct contact with the secretions or excretions of a diseased animal.
This disease is present in Africa (with the exception of southern Africa), in the Arabian Peninsula, in almost all of the Near East and the Middle East, as well as in central and south-west Asia. The percentage of countries declared affected by the disease has increased regularly over the last nine years.

Infection due to variants of infectious salmon anemia
Infectious salmon anemia is a disease which mainly affects farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). It was first reported in Norway in the mid-80s, and then appeared in Canada (New-Brunswick) in 1996, in the United Kingdom (Scotland) in 1998, in the Faroe Isles in 2000, and in the United States (Maine) in 2001.
This highly contagious disease can cause huge losses for producers, and although the number of countries affected by this disease is low compared to the number of Member Countries of the OIE, the fact that these countries are among the main producers has had an impact on the global production of Atlantic salmon. The disease made news in 2013 and 2014. In December 2013, Chile notified OIE of a variant RHP 7 A in an Atlantic salmon farm in the south of the country. Furthermore, Norway notified OIE of nine disease events of infectious salmon anemia virus between January 2013 and March 2014.

Emerging disease: Middle-East respiratory syndrome coronavirus
MERS-CoV is a particular type of coronavirus suspected to be the cause of Middle-East respiratory syndrome (MERS), an infection of the respiratory system in humans. In November 2013, Qatar notified OIE of three cases of MERS-CoV, with the definition of « emerging disease », detected in dromedaries on a farm; two cases of human infection were connected to this outbreak. In Qatar, the source of transmission for these dromedaries and humans has not been determined. For this reason, more research is necessary to understand the impact of these discoveries and to determine the potential role of the dromedary.

Emerging disease: porcine epidemic diarrhea virus
Porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) is caused by a coronavirus first identified and reported in the United Kingdom in 1971 and in Belgium in 1978. Since then the disease has been reported in Asia (in China, Korea, Japan and the Philippines). In 2013 and 2014, OIE received official notifications from the United States, Japan and Canada.
The PED virus is transmitted rapidly through ingestion of virus-contaminated feces, following the introduction of infected animals or contaminated material, and some feed products have also been suspected to cause contamination. Outbreaks of the disease have had a huge economic impact on pig farms due to high levels of morbidity and mortality among piglets.

Other information
Other important announcements made during this Assembly were as follows:
- Rinderpest is declared to be in a phase of post-eradication. This disease was declared to be eradicated in 2011, following a program of mass vaccination. In 2013 and 2014, countries were requested to declare to OIE vaccine stocks still in their possession, and this was complied with by 164 countries out of the 178 total Member Countries. In addition, five institutes in four countries have offered to be recognized officially to store the viruses and vaccines for this disease.

- The list of diseases for which countries can request disease-free status has been extended: in addition to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and African horse sickness, OIE now attributes to countries peste des petits ruminants disease-free status.
Moreover, peste des petits ruminants has become a high-priority disease targeted for eradication through vaccination.

Lastly, the Assembly adopted a new standard with the creation of the « high health, high performance » concept for horses, in order to facilitate movement of horses across international borders.

The following information may involve or be of interest to the Armed Forces:

Implementation of a veterinary alert system designed for staff in command OIE administers a computer program, WAHIS, which is a system that processes data, alerts and informs Member Countries. Anyone can gain real-time information from the website on alerts and health situations worldwide. Every Armed Forces Health Service (veterinary section) should have in place a tracking and alert procedure based on this website information, bringing information to the attention of staff in command, in the case of operations or exercises abroad, relating to the potential zoonotic risks and disinfection measures to be implemented when equipment is brought back to the home country.

The risk of propagation of African swine fever into Western Europe through military equipment used on exercises in Poland or Ukraine.
The risk of propagation of African swine fever from Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Poland) creates the need for specific prevention measures for troops on exercises or operations: a ban on transporting animal products originating from these regions; disinfection of vehicles before returning home.
Generally, when military equipment is intended to be moved from a potentially infected country towards a disease-free country, this equipment should always undergo disinfection, if possible before crossing the border or going through a port.

Value of relations between civil and military veterinary authorities
The fight against animal diseases and the need to protect against the import of diseased animals are of concern for both civilian and military bodies. Military veterinarians may need to support civilian veterinary services when there are animal disease epidemics (foot and mouth disease, avian influenza) and they may also liaise with civilian authorities when military equipment, food supplies or animals (military dogs) are to be transported. Military veterinarians would be the first to be informed and would be directly implicated if a case of imported disease were to be discovered, for example: a herd grazing at a military camp becoming infected from equipment transported there. This could also be the case with the illicit importation of mascots. It is important, therefore, that relations should be established with the civilian veterinary authorities in every country.

Veterinary Chief of Staff Philippe ULMER