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Focus: GS-III Science and Technology, Disaster Managament, Prelims

Why in news?

As India goes into emergency mode to tackle the potentially catastrophic impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the ‘Kerala model’ is being widely cited as an example to emulate.

Kerala Model

  • In 2018, Kerala reacted quickly and efficiently to tackle the Nipah virus outbreak and successfully managed to confine it to 23 cases.
  • This success has been credited to the strong public health infrastructure and the political will to quickly seek help from a multidisciplinary team of national and international experts.
  • The Kerala Nipah virus outbreak was thought to have come from fruit bats, a group of animals that may also be implicated in other more deadly outbreaks, possibly including the novel coronavirus.

Zoonotic Diseases

  • These diseases, which “spillover” from animals to humans are referred to as zoonotic diseases, and represent more than 60% of emerging infectious diseases worldwide.
  • The destruction of the natural environment, globalised trade and travel and industrialised food production systems have created numerous pathways for new pathogens to jump between animals and humans.

OneHealth – Necessity

  • One Health is a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach—working at the local, regional, national, and global levels—with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.
  • Understanding this critical intersection between human health, domestic and wild animal health and the environment requires a new integrated framework — a paradigm called ‘OneHealth’.
  • The frequency with which new pathogens are emerging or old ones are re-emerging across the world are alarm calls for greater transparency, cross-country collaborations, and enhanced national infrastructure and capacity for integrated OneHealth science.

Kyasanur Forest Disease and OneHealth

  • Although OneHealth, as a conceptual entity, emerged relatively recently, a stellar example of OneHealth being operationalised in the field was seen in India in the late 1950s.
  • It helped discover the source of Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD), a highly dangerous haemorrhagic fever more threatening than COVID-19.
  • It was locally called ‘monkey fever’ because of the links between monkey deaths and human infections in Shimoga District of Karnataka where it emerged in 1957.
  • It took pioneering interdisciplinary work to bring together diverse entities like the Rockefeller Foundation and the Virus Research Centre (later the National Institute of Virology), Pune, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Bombay Natural History Society.
  • As successful as the epidemiological investigation into KFD was, it largely remained an isolated example.
  • This model of cross-sectoral collaboration did not set the tone for further research along similar lines or fructify into readying our public health system to address zoonotic diseases.
  • To our great loss, everyone slipped back into their silos.
  • Many decades later, India is yet to operationalise a true OneHealth policy.

April 2024