The World Health Summit in Berlin was the launch site of a new ‘Animal disease detective’ training package. 

Introduced by the University of Sydney led Asia Pacific Consortium of Veterinary Epidemiology (APCOVE), the training package will teach veterinary practitioners and animal handlers the skills they need to detect and prevent the spread of infectious diseases before they develop into pandemics. 

The program seeks to stop infectious diseases in their tracks and prevent mutation or development. By training health professionals, they will be well equipped to protect both humans and animals from threatening illnesses. 



A big announcement   

The launch of the new training package occurred during the Global Field Epidemiology Partnership meeting, one of many events scheduled throughout the World Health Summit

The project received funding from the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security of the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Associate Professor Jenny-Ann Toribio, Joint Director of APCOVE and Associate Head of Veterinary Professional Education in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science, said “This training package will strengthen pre-border biosecurity, which involves improving disease prevention in our region. It is very important to protect Australia from transboundary diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, lumpy skin disease and African swine fever.

“The Sydney School of Veterinary Science is proud to lead this collaborative effort. We have a long history of training veterinarians and strengthening veterinary capacity in the region. The release of this package is a great new step in the same direction,” she said.



Deadly diseases

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the burden of infectious diseases in Australia is relatively small. In fact, it measured around 1.7 percent of the total burden in 2018. 

However, despite this low number, most Australians will experience an infectious disease in their lifetime. These infections range from mild to life threatening, and display a range of symptoms. For example, as of 25 October this year, there have been over 11,623,000 cases of COVID-19 in Australia, according to WHO.

Similarly, Australia is home to a large number of deadly diseases that target animals, such as hoof-and-mouth disease, African swine fever and avian influenza..


A new training program 

In response to this large number of infectious cases, APCOVE wanted to develop a stronger training system for health professionals. 

According to Associate Professor Navneet Dhand, APCOVE Leader from the Sydney School of Veterinary Science, this package is one of the most significant steps towards disease training in the world.

“This is the biggest resource for field veterinary epidemiology training globally. And it is now available free of cost for anyone.

“It provides a valuable resource for veterinary services around the globe to strengthen the capacity of their workforces to detect, prevent and contain infectious disease threats.

“So, training new generations of animal disease detectives at the frontline is vital to help prevent diseases wiping out livestock or infecting humans.”



The program includes 36 eLearning modules that cover a broad range of topics such as outbreak investigation, surveillance, biosecurity, disease control, leadership and communication and more. They have been designed and approved by over 40 APCOVE members from schools across Australia and New Zealand, the US, and eight countries in the Asia Pacific.

Trials were conducted over the last three years to ensure the material was effective and comprehensive. As well as being offered in English, the modules have also been translated in Lao, Khmer, Bahasa Indonesia, Vietnamese and Burmese. 

Associate Professor Dhand says “It has only been possible to develop this valuable resource due to the collaborative effort of enthusiastic epidemiologists from several countries and organisations committed to strengthening health security and preventing the next pandemic.”

APCOVE Chair of the eLearning Committee, Professor Annette Burgess, stresses the importance of developing effective coping strategies for infectious diseases. She believes these modules are a great way of providing the information in a simple and digestible way. 

“We put in a lot of effort to ensure that the modules are high quality. The modules have interactive features and include images, videos, case studies and scenarios to make them interesting for users and to help with their learning. We used them in training more than 90 veterinary personnel from the Asia Pacific during 2022 and updated them based on the user feedback.”

The package is available for free worldwide through the APCOVE website

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