None of us seek to be ill; in fact most people take regular precautions to preserve our health and that of our families. We practice basic hygiene, we avoid exposure to infection, we visit our doctors for check-ups, we vaccinate our children – we see disease prevention as a routine part of our lives. This is because we know it is better to maintain the health that we have wherever possible – prevention is better -and more reliable – than cure.
Prioritising health over treatment is something that should apply to animals as well as humans. By finding ways to prevent animals from becoming ill, we can avoid suffering and premature deaths, allow animals to reach maturity and prevent transmission to other animals or even humans.
In fact, the European Commission adopted the “Prevention is better than Cure” motto for its 2007-2013 Animal Health Strategy. Two important pillars of this strategy were ‘defining priorities’ and ‘prevention, surveillance and preparedness’. The first of these concentrated on profiling and categorising the threat posed by different animal diseases. This helps focus resources where they can be most effective. Prevention, surveillance and preparedness help to identify problems before they arise or become critical and to prepare to minimise the impact.
An important part of that prevention response is vaccines. Used appropriately, vaccination can prevent animals from contracting a disease or slow its transmission, preventing it spreading to a wider population. As with people, vaccines protect animals before they become ill, minimising their suffering.
Animals are also subject parasitic infections; cattle, pigs, sheep and even fish suffer from worms. Fleas, ticks horse-flies and other biting insects can cause discomfort and spread infections. The animal health sector manufactures a range of antiparastic medicines that help minimise the risk they pose to animal health.
The EU Regulation on Transmissible Animal Diseases, adopted in 2016, makes vaccines increasingly important. Inoculation against major diseases is increasingly the norm to prevent mass culling of animals. In addition, vaccines are a vital first line defence in emerging diseases, as global warming, mass migration and increasing global trade brings new potential threats to Europe. Europe’s vaccine manufacturers work closely with authorities to allow them as a rapid a response as possible to new strains or new diseases.