Linking Epidemiology and Laboratory Research on Transboundary Animal Diseases and Zoonoses in EU and China


A series of webinars were organized covering mostly specific diseases or policy aspects. A hybrid between dissemination and training, this modern tool was seen as a very useful way to deliver talks by experts allowing a wide participation of stakeholders in the EU/China, especially those who cannot physically participate in the project workshops. Moreover, the webinar recordings and presentations were made available online afterwards. Webinars usually lasted between one and two hours and always included a question and answer session.

1st Webinar on Disease Outbreak Investigation (9/10/2014) external link

On 9 October 2014, Dr. Chris Bartels from the European Commission for the control of Foot-and-Mouth disease (EuFMD) delivered the first webinar of the series: a 1.5-hour presentation entitled Disease Outbreak Investigation: more than "take a sample and run" with focus on China's situation. The webinar was co-organized by FAO Headquarters in Rome and FAO China in Beijing, and facilitated by Prof John Edwards, Senior Coordinator of FAO ECTAD China.

The presentation covered all aspects related to DOI, including what steps to take and how to perform these steps, and the relation between outbreak investigation and Progressive Control Pathway (PCP) stages for FMD (stages 1-3). A total of 22 participants attended the webinar. Among them were LinkTADs partners Harbin Veterinary Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), China Animal Health and Epidemiology Center (CAHEC) and China Animal Disease Control Center (CADC), the Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD), as well as external participants such as Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Veterinary Bureau of Ministry of Agriculture of China (MoA), and FAO's Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. The webinar was found very practical and useful, and was highly valued by participants.

The materials of the webinar can be downloaded below.


Webinar on Antimicrobial Resistance (5/02/2015) external link

The importance and increase in the use of antibiotics has lead to the raise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), raising huge concerns worldwide due to its public and animal health implications. In response to this growing interest, LinkTADs and EFFORT, two EU-funded projects, co-led the organization of a webinar on Surveillance of antimicrobial resistance. This was the second of a series of webinars organized under the framework of LinkTADs after the first one on disease outbreak investigations in October 2014.

The EFFORT project studies the complex epidemiology and ecology of AMR, while FAO-lead LinkTADs focuses on the coordination of research on animal disease (i.e. epidemiology and laboratory diagnostics) between partners in the EU and China.

The webinar took place on 5 February 2015 over the course of one and a half hours, using an online meeting format that allowed participants to interact, ask questions and discuss with the presenters. Participation was free of charge. Participants included stakeholders involved in the design and implementation of AMR surveillance programmes, researchers, veterinary services and policy makers in Asia. Two presenters covered the different aspects related to AMR. Although the focus of the webinar was China, participants represented a broad range of additional countries, including Canada, India, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Dr Jaap Wagenaar, from Utrecht University, The Netherlands, presented the ecosystems of AMR, dynamics, transfer and monitoring at the bacterial level, pointing out the importance of integrated surveillance systems, which would enable data comparison from food producing animals, food products and humans. He also presented the two methods for evaluating resistance: Clinical breakpoints (CBPs), based on clinically relevant data (therapeutic indication, clinical response data, dosing schedules, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics); and Epidemiological cut-off values (ECOFFs), which separate the naive, susceptible wild-type population from the populations that have developed reduced susceptibility to a given antimicrobial agent. Dr Wagenaar highlighted the importance of reducing the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance by using the example of commensal E. coli.

The second topic on monitoring of antimicrobial consumption in animals was presented by Jeroen Dewulf from Ghent University, Belgium. He addressed the various needs for monitoring antimicrobial consumption and the different points where those measures could be taken at national level such as market authorization holders, wholesalers, feed producing companies, veterinarians and pharmacists. He highlighted the limitations in the quantification and comparison of consumption levels, such as the delay that may occur between data collection and consumption point. He also presented the various units available for quantification while comparing their strengths and limitations.

After the presentations, the general discussions with participants focused on the effect of residues in the environment and how this should be included into surveillance systems. The recording of the whole webinar is available here.

Webinar on Rabies prevention and control tools in Asia (02/07/2015) external link

In order to improve knowledge on rabies prevention and control, this webinar was organized under the framework of LinkTADs with the technical assistance of EuFMD.
The webinar started with a presentation given by Bernadette Abela-Ridder from WHO discussing the benefits and hindrances to the global elimination of rabies. This section highlighted the burden of rabies for poor and rural local communities, the need to vaccinate dogs to protect people, how to increase awareness on dog bite prevention, immediate first aid for bite wounds, and post-bite treatment when appropriate. The presentation also focused on the role of surveillance to help ensure more accurate monitoring and evaluation, as well as better programmatic planning and dog and human vaccine procurement forecasts. WHO emphasized its role in facilitating the interaction between human and animal health sectors, finding mechanisms to stimulate countries in their elimination efforts (for example via bulk procurement of quality vaccines) and in raising awareness and investment towards combatting rabies elimination. 

The second presentation, on the Rabies Blueprint, was given by Louis Nel from the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), who stressed their in raising awareness on this neglected disease, especially with the creation of World Rabies Day in 2007, as well as the importance of communication and how to engage with the local community in controlling the disease. The Rabies Blueprint was also introduced and described as a tool that has inspired public health veterinarians in developing their control plans and strategies.

FAO’s presentation, given by Katinka de Balogh, focused on developing a stepwise approach for rabies control, which describes all six stages required to move from an endemic situation to freedom of disease. FAO is proving guidance and support to countries in order to embark on rabies elimination.

The fourth presentation given by Gregorio Torres, from the OIE, focused on OIE’s international standards which included provisions for disease surveillance and notification, recommendations for international trade, stray dog population control, and rabies diagnosis and vaccination. During his presentation he emphasised the role of the Tripartite (WHO, FAO and OIE) in the global elimination of dog-mediated human rabies following the One Health approach. He briefly introduced the concept of the OIE vaccine bank as a vaccine procurement mechanism that has been successfully used by many countries. Participants were invited to consult the OIE website for further information on international standards and OIE activities.

The last presentation, given by Eric Brum from FAO Bangladesh, described the principles and practices for rapid rabies control, highlighting the challenges faced by veterinarians in identifying incubating animals, and the field experience in implementing vaccination as an important element for reducing transmissibility, contact rate and the duration of infection to maximize the results of rabies prevention and control. The presentation also stressed the importance of vaccinating puppies, and the role of community support to increase vaccination efficiency. 

Presentations were followed by a series of questions from participants and answers from the panel members, mostly focusing on the practicality of vaccination, expected vaccination coverage and requirements during imports. The webinar lasted 1.50 hrs and is recorded for viewing here and presentations can be downloaded here.

Webinar on Rabies Prevention and Control in China (21/09/2015) external link

A webinar dedicated to rabies prevention and control in China took place on 21 September 2015, at 9:30 (CST) in Chinese.  It was the second webinar on the topic after the first, which focused on the whole of Asia. Over 30 participants from Chinese animal disease prevention and control centres, veterinary colleges and research institutes participated the meeting.

According to the World Health Organization - Western Pacific Region (WHO), China has the second highest number of reported rabies cases in the world, with over 2,000 deaths per year, mostly in the south-eastern part of China and mostly due to dog bites. In fact, China's dog population has increased dramatically in recent years, with a total of 80 million dogs, 14 million of which live in urban areas. China administers 12-15 million rabies vaccine doses annually and the Chinese authorities are forecasting national rabies elimination by 2025. 

The agenda included four presentations, each lasting 20 minutes, and followed by 15 minutes of general discussion:

1.     Rabies diagnosis in China - OIE Ref Lab in China - Changchun Tu (Military Veterinary

Research Institute);

2.     Example of effective rabies prevention and control – Chongqing - Zheng Zeng (Chongqing Animal disease Control Center);

3.     Rabies vaccine development – Ling Zhao (Huazhong Agricultural University);

4.     Rabies taskforce - Fusheng Guo (FAO China).


A copy of the webinar can be downloaded here.

Webinars on Animal Health research agendas (13/10/2015) external link

On 13th October 2015, a two-talk webinar on the EU-China policy for research funding and coordination was organized. The webinar was part of the second session (on Coordination of Research) during WP4 meeting in Vienna. The two presentations were web-streamed through an open access platform, and were followed by 70 people in 21 institutions.

The first presentation was given by Alex Morrow who presented the activities performed under the project “Global Strategic Alliances for the Coordination of Research on the Major Infectious Diseases of Animals and Zoonoses” (STAR-IDAZ). The project aims to cover the current gaps in doubling and overlapping of research efforts, trying to establish clear communication lined within the global research community to harmonize research goals as well as information sharing.

Jean Charles Cavitte presented the recently launched Horizon 2020 programme of the EU commission with emphasis on the possibilities to finance common EU/China research consortia. The Horizon 2020 programme is founded on three pillars: excellence science, industrial leadership and societal challenges. Of particular importance to LinkTADs is the societal challenge SC2, which focuses on “food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine nad maritime and inland water research and the Bio-economy.

The first presentation can be found here and the second can be found here.


Webinar on Influenza A (H7N9) Epidemiology and Surveillance in China (20/03/2016) external link

In the framework of the LinkTADs project, a webinar titled Epidemiology and Surveillance of Influenza A(H7N9) was held on 20 March 2016 in English, using a bilingual presentation (English-Chinese). Over 30 participants registered for the webinar, including professionals from the China Animal Disease Control Centre (CADC) and the China Animal Health and Epidemiology Center (CAHEC), China Field Epidemiology Training Program for Veterinarians (China FETPV), trainers and trainees from national and provincial veterinary agencies, and participants from veterinary colleges and research institutes worldwide. The FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) country teams in the region also participated.

The 45 minute presentation was given by FAO’s Global Surveillance Coordinator, Sophie von Dobschuetz, who first set the scene by providing the background and current epidemiological knowledge of influenza A(H7N9), which emerged in China as a zoonotic virus in March 2013. As of 15 March 2016, a total of 751 human cases had been reported, of which 294 had a fatal outcome (39 percent case fatality rate). Most cases reported a history of direct or indirect exposure to live domestic poultry at live bird markets (LBMs). Through active surveillance, the H7N9 virus was detected in live birds and the environment of LBMs and, to a lesser extent, on farms. Dr von Dobschuetz then moved on to explain the basics of risk-based surveillance and reviewed risk factors pertinent to the H7N9 virus. A very important characteristic is that infected birds shed virus without showing any clinical signs. This "silent" infection increases the likelihood of undetected virus spread, and consequently of human exposure. Therefore, passive, event-based surveillance cannot be applied for the early detection of H7N9 in poultry populations. Instead, surveillance needs to follow a risk-based approach for early detection, with active sampling and virological testing, targeting those geographic areas, markets and production systems at highest risk of virus introduction.

The presentation concluded with remarks on the importance of surveillance activities being designed around clear objectives and that surveillance has to trigger action; therefore results need to be produced, shared, analysed and followed up in a timely fashion. An open question and answer session at the end benefited from very active participation. Of particular value was additional information provided by Chinese participants on poultry value chains and the design of the national surveillance system. The question of why highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses of the H5 subtype spread quickly in the region (and beyond), while circulation of H7N9 still seems to be confined to China was discussed in detail. In this regard, colleagues from CAHEC mentioned the local importance for consumer preference of chickens of the yellow-feathered type, the species mainly implicated in H7N9 epidemiology and spread within China. Exclusive local demand for these birds and associated higher prices may be the reason why the virus has had less opportunity to spread beyond borders.

The webinar presentation can be viewed here.

Webinar on EMPRES Global Animal Disease Information System- introduction and application (2/09/2016) external link

In order to improve knowledge on the functionality of the FAO’s Global Animal Disease Information(EMPRES-i) system, a webinar entitled “EMPRES-i – Introduction and Application” was held on 2 September 2016, focusing on users from China. Delivered by experts from the FAO AGAH/GLEWS team, the webinar was attended by 21 participants, predominantly from China. 

FAO’s Global Animal Disease Information System (EMPRES-i) is an FAO web-based application released in 2009 that has been designed to support veterinary services by facilitating regional and global animal disease information. Timely and reliable disease information enhances early warning and response to transboundary and high impact animal diseases, including emergent zoonoses. Further, information sharing also supports prevention, improved management and progressive approaches to the control of these diseases. EMPRES-i provides updated information on global animal disease distribution and current threats at national, regional and global level. It also provides access to publications, manuals and other resources, such as contact details of chief veterinary officers and laboratories (national and reference laboratories). Users can access various functions including mapping and graphing tools and search and analysis tools for new or historic outbreaks. EMPRES-i is open to the public. This platform is designed for those interested in timely, global, regional and national animal disease information and analysis. 

The webinar agenda included the following sections and lasted for 1 hour:

·         Background on the EMPRES-i platform

·         Description of layout and practical use examples

·         Conclusion

·         Q&A

The webinar was conducted in English with bilingual (English/Chinese) slides. It was well received with all of those responding rating both the topic and content to be useful.  A pdf copy of the presentation can be downloaded here, and a full recording of the presentation including the question period can be downloaded from here.