Ha Noi, May 19, 2022: About 60 representatives from Vietnamese government agencies and both international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) joined the close out and transition workshop of WildHealthNet – a project co-implemented by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Department of Animal Health (DAH), Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development (MARD) during 2018 - 2022, with the support of the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) - Biological Threat Reduction Program. Representatives of DAH, MARD; National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE), MOH, GDPM; Regional Animal Health Offices No. 6 and 7; Provincial Forest Protection Departments (FPD) and Sub-DAHs in Dong Nai, Binh Phuoc, Nghe An and Dong Thap provinces, and representatives from national parks and conservation organizations; representatives from partnered laboratory National Center for Veterinary Diagnosis (NCVD) and Vietnam National University of Agriculture (VNUA) also attended the workshop.
60 representatives participated in the workshop, Ha Noi, May 2022
Human activities and anthropogenic changes to the planet’s ecosystems over the past two centuries have resulted in wildlife, domestic animals, and humans increasingly coming into contact with each other which leads to pathogen spillovers and disease emergence. Wildlife health surveillance is recognized as an important component of wildlife conservation and has been identified as a critical component of One Health surveillance - with the goal of including wildlife surveillance in the “detect, prevent, respond” approach of the global health community. Wildlife health surveillance is needed to detect and manage pathogens that threaten wildlife populations, like African swine fever virus (ASFV), and to understand the epidemiology of wildlife-origin pathogens such as SARS-CoV-1, Ebola, MERS-CoV, Nipah, Avian Influenza (AI) viruses, and SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19.
To improve Viet Nam's capacity to detect and prevent pathogen spillover, and respond to disease outbreaks involving wildlife, WildHealthNet developed a suite of training activities, policy initiatives, and disease surveillance technology designed to monitor especially dangerous pathogens in wild animals and built capacity within Vietnamese government agencies at the central level and in Nghe An, Dong Nai, Dong Thap, and Binh Phuoc provinces to develop an effective national wildlife health surveillance network.
Given the major biosecurity, economic, and conservation implications of emerging and re-emerging diseases, WildHealthNet engaged closely with project sites to clarify roles and responsibilities for wildlife pathogen detection, steps, and communication in disease outbreak response and to identify priority pathogens. In coordination with the NIHE, the DAH and subDAH offices of Dong Nai, Nghe Anh and Dong Thap provinces, WildHealthNet established on the ground targeted surveillance activities for AI, ASFV, coronaviruses, Rickettsia, and hantaviruses in wildlife populations, particularly at high-risk wildlife-livestock-human interfaces. These investigations facilitated the detection of ASFV in free ranging wild boar in 2019 in Dong Nai province and highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 in sick and dead wild birds in 2021 in Dong Thap province. The results have been shared widely to the DAH. In total, 3,439 samples were collected from 1,213 individuals, including bats, pangolins, wild boar, carnivores, rodents, wild birds and primates, and were screened for targeted pathogens.
WildHealthNet also strengthened passive surveillance activities through increased wildlife morbidity and mortality event detections and investigations in a network of six protected areas across Viet Nam including Cat Tien national park, Pu Mat national park, Bu Gia Map national park, Tram Chim national park, Tan Phu protected area and Dong Nai Culture and Nature Reserve and improved reporting and response time to wildlife mortality events. WildHealthNet trained a total of 125 participants, including science staff, forest rangers, veterinarians and government animal health officers in wildlife morbidity and mortality investigations, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), wildlife carcass necropsy and sample collection. Three refresher trainings and technical updates were conducted in Nghe An and Dong Nai provinces to evaluate participants' understanding and to enhance their capacity to report wildlife mortality and morbidity events. A total of 18 wildlife mortality events, including mostly primates, elephants, pangolins, and wild boar, were reported by the protected areas involved in the network. Samples collected were screened for targeted especially dangerous pathogens but were all negative.
WildHealthNet also identified and adapted data collection and management tools to demonstrate and support best practice bio-surveillance reporting for events and findings within the network. A suite of technological tools that supported the smooth collection of wildlife health event data in a standardized format (SMART for Health) was developed. A system for managing wildlife health surveillance data, Wildlife Health Intelligence Platform (WHIP), was adapted and used to store data generated by the project. Full access to the WHIP platform was granted to the DAH.
During group discussions and sharing sessions participants brought to the table their insights and experience in playing an active role in the WildHealthNet surveillance network and how the network significantly improved wildlife health surveillance in Viet Nam.
Dr. Nguyen Van Long, Acting Director General of the DAH, MARD emphasized: “Viet Nam shares the global concern regarding the wildlife health-related disease monitoring system at national level. We also recognize risks of emerging and re-emerging diseases as Viet Nam has prevalent human - wildlife interaction due to geographical, biological, sociological and cultural traits. Given that context, WildHealthNet promoted the incorporation of wildlife diseases into the national health monitoring system to identify and address disease threats to wildlife, livestock, and human populations.”
During the meeting, a number of remaining gaps in the wildlife health management system in Viet Nam were identified. Participants also discussed potential issues for the increased and sustainable inter-agency collaboration to resolve the highlighted gaps - including how relevant functional agencies can contribute to help establish a sustainable national system for wildlife health surveillance.
Ms. Hoang Bich Thuy, Country Director of WCS Viet Nam Program, shared: “We aimed for our surveillance system to be realistic for implementation, meet the different needs and risks that exist in various wildlife-human interfaces and maximize the utilization of previously existing animal health surveillance systems. WildHealthNet was co-developed by animal health, public health, wildlife management agencies and wildlife conservation groups. Only through harmonious coordination and cooperation can we optimize the linkages among surveillance systems generated and owned by each sector under the One Health concept.”
The meeting was also to recognize the on-going efforts and interest of the DAH to continue to develop wildlife health surveillance in Viet Nam with collaboration across network partners and the agriculture, environment, and human health sectors. It was an opportunity to map out the next steps to guide a transition to more comprehensive DAH leadership for wildlife surveillance and coordination of a national wildlife health surveillance network. It was also an opportunity to identify the potential to link with related One Health surveillance initiatives supported by different German, EU, and US Government agencies as well as the World Bank and Tripartite Plus (FAO, WHO, OIE, and UNEP) to promote One Health surveillance.
For details, please contact:
Nguyen Dinh Thang
Communication Support Officer
WCS Viet Nam Program
106, D Building, No. 3 Thanh Cong Street, Thanh Cong Ward, Ba Dinh District, Ha Noi, Viet Nam
Telephone: 024 3514 9750
Mobile phone: 0339519500
About DTRA and DTRA BTRP:
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency is under the Department of Defense, the United States Government. During the past 15 years, the Department of Defense (DOD) has supported a variety of international security-oriented biological activities. For 10 years, these activities have been referred to by DOD as the Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP) and have been implemented by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). BTRP is one of several U.S. government programs that have been developed and implemented within an interagency framework to prevent the proliferation of expertise, materials, equipment, and technologies that could contribute to the development of biological weapons.
The Department of Animal Health (DAH) was established in 1966. DAH is the government organization directly under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), performing advisory functions, assisting the Minister in state management and organizing law enforcement on disease prevention and control, veterinary medicine and vaccines, food safety and animal products, under the management authority of MARD, as decentralized and authorized by the Minister.
WCS has worked in Viet Nam since 2006 with a focus on combating the illegal wildlife trade. WCS works to degrade, disrupt, and dismantle wildlife trafficking networks and reduce poaching pressure on wildlife populations. We facilitate collaboration and cross-agency action at domestic and international scales between key law enforcement agencies, the judiciary, natural resource regulatory agencies, and domestic and international non-governmental organizations. Our efforts have led to enhanced enforcement effectiveness through the successful arrest, prosecution, and conviction of wildlife criminals.
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