New Delhi: A territorial tussle between physicians and veterinarians is leading to neglect in research of zoonotic diseases and in turn hampering awareness campaigns for such animal-to-human diseases such as Rabies, Swine Flu, and TB, according to experts.
The Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) believes that research should be precursor to any awareness campaign about zoonotic diseases as the area has been neglected so far.
Zoonoses constitute about 60 per cent of all known human infections and 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic and a new global study has put India as one of the "hotspots" for the highest incidence of zoonotic diseases, according to a World Health Organisation report,
"We did a survey to find out the knowledge of Zoonoses among medical students and we were surprised to find out the results to be 40-60 percent," says Manish Kakkar, Head of Zoonotic department at PHFI.
Even though Zoonoses Day is celebrated every year on July 6 to emphasise and bring awareness amongst people, and teach them to take right action experts believe that Zoonoses as a subject has not received the attention it deserves amongst academicians or policymakers and thus there is immense scope and demand for research in the area.
General physicians are of the perception that veterinarians should be dealing with zoonoses while veterinarians believe it is the former`s territory and the entire game of beliefs leaves the category of diseases in no man`s land.
"The need of the hour is not only research but relevant research and the syllabus at the medical schools also needs to be revised as far as the study of Zoonoses is concerned," says Kakkar.
Kakkar says, "If we study the history of zoonotic disease India has faced outbreak of zoophytic diseases every second year including SARS, bird flu followed by swine flu and now encephalitis."
The WHO says there is growing recognition that an outbreak anywhere can potentially represent an emergency of international public health concern, hence increasing the need for research for advance preparedness as well as control measures.
"There is need for a heightened awareness of the possibility that new epidemics of zoonotic disease can and will emerge in unexpected places," says a WHO spokesperson.
The Roadmap to Combat Zoo noses in India`s (RCZI) mission, a multi sectoral initiative for prevention and control of zoo noses has roped in experts from various organisations including WHO, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) , Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and others for facilitating interdisciplinary communication and research.
"To bring zoonoses into `correct man`s land` there is a need to have a multisector collaboration in the area. RCZI is an initiative with same vision" says Kakkar.