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Training Manual on Wildlife Diseases and Surveillance
X. Wildlife disease surveillance
1. Wild animal pathogen surveillance is essential to animal health management
Surveillance for wild animal pathogens is the single most important component of a
national wildlife health programme. It is essential to all of the other components. For OIE
Wildlife Focal Points, it is the activity of greatest importance because it provides all of the
information the focal point needs to carry out his or her work.
Only through wildlife pathogen surveillance can a country know what pathogens exist
within its wild animal populations, in which geographic areas and in which host species.
Surveillance is required to detect new, emerging diseases. Surveillance also can measure the
proportion of animals in a population which are infected. All of this information is required to
assess health risks associated with international trade or internal movement of wild animals,
and to meet international obligations for disease reporting.
Surveillance also requires an organised system of observation of wild animals in the
field, veterinary diagnostic laboratories, information management systems and communication
systems, all of which also are required when a country decides to respond to a disease outbreak
and take management actions. Thus, surveillance can build the national capacity that also is
required to manage urgent animal health events.
Surveillance is ‘the systematic on-going collection, collation, and analysis of information
related to animal health and the timely dissemination of information to those who need to know
so that action can be taken.’ (OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code).
The key points are:
1) That it is a continuous activity, a constant investigation and vigilance for pathogens
in wildlife and the diseases they may cause;
2) That surveillance involves not just the collection of information but also the regular
analysis of the data for specific purposes; and
3) That surveillance includes communication of the results of data collection and
analysis to the full range of people, agencies and institutions that need the information. Thus, a
surveillance programme has several different components:
detection of dead or diseased wild animals, or collection of samples from wild
identification of pathogens and diseases (diagnosis, laboratory tests)
iii) information management: computerized records of all information
iv) data analysis and communication: maps, statistics, reports, risk analysis,