World Veterinary Day 2015: Celebrating NobilityBy Marzuq Abubakar Ungogo
“Between animal and human medicine there is no dividing line-nor should there be. The object is different but the experience obtained constitutes the basis of all medicine” Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902).
On admission into veterinary profession, all veterinarians solemnly swear to fully commit to animal health, relief of animal suffering, production and conservation of livestock resources and promotion of public health. These are the cardinal principles of the profession with the whole aim of providing quality professional services for the benefit of man and his environment. This is the calling of veterinary doctors.
Since time immemorial, man started to domesticate animals to ensure unlimited food supply and subsequently for security, transportation and companionship. Today, animals play indispensable roles in our lives offering compassionate companionship, sophisticated security services, protein supply, are used in sporting activities, biomedical research, cultural and religious practices and provide million jobs. A world without animals cannot just be imagined.
Like man, all living things are susceptible to infirmities of life falling sick or coming down with diseases, many of which can be adequately prevented, treated or controlled. These animals need to be taken care of either for humanitarian, economic or public health concerns. This necessitated the emergence of Veterinary Medicine as a formal field of study and profession in 1761 in Lyon, France. However, the story of veterinary medicine goes back to Urlugaledinna, who lived in 3000 BC in Mesopotamia and was an expert in healing animals. From there onwards there are references to “veterinarians” and veterinary practices throughout literature of all civilizations.
Humans and most domesticated animals and some wildlife belong to the class “Mammalia” and share basic biological features. To cut the story short, we all belong to the biological Kingdom Animalia together with monkey, fish, elephant, crab, tortoise, millipede, ant and ostrich. This similarity has two important dimensions with regards to human health. The first is the fact that humans and animals share most infectious diseases many of which can be transmitted from the animals to humans and vice versa called zoonoses or zoonotic diseases. Zoonoses include the deadly anthrax, rabies, tuberculosis, Avian Influenza, Ebola and so on.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), about 75% of the new diseases that have affected humans over the past 10 years have been caused by pathogens originating from animals or from products of animal origin. These diseases can be transmitted either through direct or indirect contact with diseased animals and materials they contaminated or through consumption of food of diseased animal origin. Since these animals are indispensable members of our ecosystem, only professional approach to understanding and controlling their diseases is the solution. Veterinarians work hard daily in farms, clinics, laboratories, abattoirs, universities, wildlife parks and zoos, boarders, airports and seaports, industries and sport complexes to bridge this gap and ensure our safety.
The second dimension is more or less man’s enquiry into nature and exploration into possibilities. This has helped in advancement of medical knowledge from embryo development to immunology, physiology to histology, gynaecology to geriatrics, basic genetics to genome projects and also understanding diseases, discovery of drugs and development of surgical procedures. Anytime you take a drug, be rest assured it was tested in mice, rat or dog before it was licensed fit for your use. This is the same with almost all surgeries. The contributions of veterinarians in biomedical research cannot just be overemphasized.
World Veterinary Day was initiated by the World Veterinary Association (WVA) in 2000 to be celebrated annually on the last Saturday of April. This year’s World veterinary day falls on 25th April and is themed “Vector borne diseases with Zoonotic Potentials”. Vector-borne zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases that can be transmitted from from animal to human (or vice versa) through other lower animals (especially insects) serving as vehicle known as vectors. These include Yellow Fever, Trypanosomosis, West Nile Diseases, Leishmaniosis and so on. These diseases are of highly significant medical and economic importance especially in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.
According to World Veterinary Association (WVA), “Changes in Global climate influences the increase of
emerging and re-emerging vector-borne diseases and disease outbreaks (e.g. West-Nile Disease, Leishmaniosis etc.). Vector-borne zoonotic diseases are an important example of the interdependence that exists between vectors, animal hosts, climate conditions, pathogens, and susceptible human population. Veterinarians are key actors of the One Health Concept at the animal-human-environment interface, therefore, they play a central role in safeguarding Public Health. Collaboration and coordination between veterinarians and physicians are fundamental to prevent and then treat vector-borne diseases.”
There is no better time than now to call on Nigerian government to increase its funding on health and biomedical research and enact policies that will ensure better coordination and a holistic approach to control of human and animal diseases. The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA) and other relevant professional bodies should replicate efforts of their colleagues in other climes and improve their ties and affirm the importance of collaboration for a developed and healthy Nigeria.
Dr Marzuq Ungogo is a National Youth Corps Member serving as Clinician in Pantami Veterinary Clinic, Gombe State and writes for “DVM Nigeria Magazine”.
He can be reached at email@example.com