Animal Health Data

There are multiple organizations within a country that make up its animal disease surveillance system. They all gather various data that describe an aspect of the animal health situation within a country. A single organization within a country has responsibility to report to the OIE. In the United States, this responsibility lies with the USDA, which must gather and compile the required information from multiple sources, including state departments of agriculture, laboratories, industry groups, and internal sources. Often the centralization of information is manual and, therefore, does not occur in real time and is in summary form only. Information provided to OIE does not include individual producers. Individual states typically also monitor diseases that they are not required to report to the USDA.

The OIE does not require information on all diseases; for example, information on diseases of production animals that do not result in production loss or on diseases of wildlife with no known impact on humans or domesticated animals is generally not required. Usually, wildlife bodies collect this information but do not send it to the OIE reporting body.

It is therefore essential that all the independent organizations within a country who monitor animal health combine into an effective surveillance system to facilitate trade of animals or animal products. This combined system provides evidence to validate a country's claims of freedom from individual animal diseases. However, improvements to data collection, centralization, analysis, and reporting are certainly possible and desirable within the animal health monitoring system. A system to identify deficiencies and duplications of surveillance and a method to prioritize and fund system development are required. These developments will require coordination and consultation with many organizations involved in human, domestic animal, and wildlife health across multiple jurisdictions.

One such effort is underway. The USDA's APHIS, working together with the U.S. Animal Health Association and the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) launched the National Animal Health Reporting System (NAHRS), which is part of the APHIS National Surveillance Unit (NSU) Veterinary Service. NAHRS is implementing a Web-based reporting tool and database that the USDA hopes will speed reporting and make the data more useful for surveillance (Bruntz, 2004). However, we note that NAHRS-specified state reporting consists of simple yes/no assertions; that is, it merely states whether a given disease has occurred in that state. This is a significant limitation.

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