One Health Explained

There is a significant increase in the emergence of infectious agents and the risk of new pandemics as exemplified by the spread of highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza since 2003, the pandemic H1N1 influenza in 2009, influenza H7N9 in 2013, SARS, MERS, chikungunya and dengue. It is relevant to note that SARS, as the first novel pandemic virus of the new millennium, has clearly demonstrated that:

  • previously unknown pathogens can emerge from a wildlife source at any time in any place and without warning, threaten the health, well-being and economies of all societies;
  • there was a clear need for countries to have the capability and capacity to maintain an effective alert and response system to detect and quickly react to outbreaks of international concern, and to share information about such outbreaks rapidly and transparently;
  • and responding to pandemic threats requires global cooperation and global participation.

Combined with the growing globalization of health risks and the importance of the human-animal-ecosystem interface in the evolution and emergence of pathogens, the only solution is a One Health approach.


  1. Zoonoses are an International Public Health issue: in the past two decades, 60% of emerging infectious human diseases had their source in animals. Since 1970, new infectious diseases have been discovered at an average rate of 1 every 8 months.
  2. Influenza pandemics are an economic issue: the World Bank has suggested that a low level pandemic could globally reduce production by almost 1% of gross domestic product, a moderate pandemic by almost 2% and a serious pandemic by as much as 5%, which would result in a serious economic recession.
  3. Zoonotic diseases are a societal issue: SARS in 2003 and H1N1 influenza in 2009 have shown how quickly panic, stigmatization and mistrust towards governments and the scientific community can arise (even during clearly moderate epidemics). Effects may be long-standing and have long-term consequences for populations’ support of health measures. This emphasizes the important role of communication in health issues.
  4. Zoonotic diseases have security implications: 80% of known biological weapons have a zoonotic origin.
  5. Antimicrobial resistance develops and spreads at the animal human interface and is a major challenge to the future health of mankind. According to the World Bank the cumulative impacts by 2050 are $100 trillion and 10 million human deaths annually. Agriculture and aquaculture contribute to direct transmission
    of resistant strains and antimicrobial dispersion, reduced efficacy threatens both health and food production.


The One Health concept is not limited to zoonoses as it indeed incorporates all pathogens which have an impact on Global Health Security, including food and water security.

The One Health Platform has two scientific agenda’s and one Science Policy Interface agenda.

“The high pandemic risks make investments in veterinary and human public health systems ‘possibly the most productive investments on behalf of mankind’ ”