Like the canary in the coal mine, animals getting sick may hold an important message for people about shared environmental health risks.
The Zoobiquity 2014 Conference, "Human and Animal Health in a Changing Global Environment" Saturday, Nov. 1, in Seattle will bring together human, veterinary, and environmental medicine experts to explore the linkages and overlaps between these disciplines.
Humans and animals get many of the same diseases and share similar conditions, which make them sentinels for each other. With proper communication and collaboration between human and animal health professionals, environmental health threats can be better detected for a better response.
"Health-care providers and veterinarians need to communicate about diseases occurring in multiple species so that we can detect and prevent unhealthy environments. This is known as a 'One Health' approach," said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, who is one of the organizers of the conference. He heads the Center for One Health Research at the University of Washington and is an associate professor of environmental and occupational health and global health in the UW School of Public Health.
Several hundred clinicians and scientists are expected to attend the interactive, day-long conference. Sessions will include case presentations by veterinarians alongside human health care providers. In the morning at the UW, they will discuss diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to obesity, domestic abuse, and respiratory disease, with a special session on Ebola. During the afternoon walking rounds at Woodland Park Zoo, experts will present other cases and highlight disease surveillance that illustrates the connection between animal, human and environmental health.
"The Zoobiquity Conference highlights the many ways veterinarians and human health care professionals can work together to promote a vision of 'One Health,'" said Dr. Bryan Slinker, dean of Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, a cosponsor of Zoobiquity 2014. "It is essential that we work together to advance medical and surgical care and prioritize preventive medicine, to improve the health and economic security of people worldwide."
"Worldwide, zoo veterinarians are uniquely positioned to focus attention on how a rapidly changing local and global environment affects the health of humans and animals," said Dr. Darin Collins, head veterinarian and director of Animal Health Programs at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. "Global economies in developing countries and markets for wildlife consumption are changing the way zoo professionals care for wildlife in zoos and further increases the contributions of the world zoo community toward global biodiversity conservation. Humans and animals share many naturally occurring diseases, and, therefore, we share the same strengths and vulnerabilities when it comes to health."
Some case comparisons that will be featured at the conference include:
- Emerging fungal diseases in marine mammals and humans related to climate change.
- Obesity in people, dogs, and grizzly bears.
- Domestic violence against women in the same households as animal abuse.
- Breast cancer gene in jaguars and women.
- Health and aging in humans and the great ape
Zoobiquity 2014 is sponsored by the University of Washington School of Public Health and School of Medicine; Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health and College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University; Woodland Park Zoo; and the Zoobiquity Research Initiative.