The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) asked the Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) to evaluate the European Union Summary Report on Trends and Sources of Zoonoses, Zoonotic Agents and Food-borne Outbreaks by EFSA and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) (hereafter the zoonoses report) with regard to data needs and subsequent analyses that will minimise the impact of existing data gaps and inconsistencies. Further, the AHAW Panel was requested to propose modifications to improve the scientific quality and appropriateness of the data and their usefulness. The first term of reference (TOR) was a direct evaluation of the zoonoses reports of 2009 and 2010, similar to past evaluations. This was addressed separately in a scientific opinion adopted by the AHAW Panel in May 2012 (EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare, 2012). The remaining TORs (2–7) are addressed in this opinion.
TORs 2–5 are addressed in Section 2 separately for specific infections, since the answers can differ according to the epidemiological situation of each. Whether the data presented in the report are giving an accurate picture of the epidemiological situation, this is surely true for those infections which have an EU harmonised monitoring system. This offers a good basis to present a valid, complete and representative picture of the epidemiological situation. Extending this to the other infections will further improve the report.
Generally the data analysis applied in the zoonoses report is restricted to descriptive and summarising methods. Further analyses could be valuable for specific purposes, but are mostly not relevant within the scope of the zoonoses report, i.e., reporting on trends and sources. Further quantification of the trends could be considered, where changes in the trend are observed.
The collection of sample-based data instead of aggregated (population) data could potentially improve the quality and value of the report, but only if the background information and metadata are sufficiently clear. In general, specific information for each zoonosis should contain (i) a clear and agreed case definition, (ii) a clear description of sampling techniques and tests used, (iii) relevant epidemiological characteristics and (iv) relevant control measures or surveillance.
In Section 3, this opinion considers if the data collection should be extended to additional zoonoses, or zoonotic agents, such as vector-borne zoonoses. Prioritisation regarding infections, especially regarding the importance of the disease in humans, is not considered within the remit of the AHAW Panel. Thus we propose a list of criteria, to assess the value of adding a specific infection to the report, while leaving the proposal of naming diseases or infections to other authorities. Three criteria are proposed: (1) the disease or infection is reported regularly in animals and humans in one or more MS; (2) the zoonoses must be considered a serious human disease problem; and (3) monitoring in animals must be epidemiologically justifiable. The first two criteria are proposed as inclusion criteria while the third could be used to prioritise the diseases for inclusion in the report.
In Section 4, possible improvements to the data collection and presentation of the data in the zoonoses report were addressed by evaluating the value of the data in the report for AHAW mandates, while keeping the purpose of the report in mind. In the past, data in the zoonoses report have been of limited value in supporting the AHAW risk assessment process. The usefulness of the data is often compromised by a missing case definition or insufficient metadata. Furthermore, the most recent report is already outdated, with respect to the AHAW risk questions addressed, especially when infections with fast spread or an epidemic behaviour are addressed. Data collections for risk assessment in animal health and welfare should best be driven by the risk question, which makes the zoonoses report (and data libraries in general) a less suitable data source. However, background data which are stable over time, such as information on national surveillance systems and local-level population density data, could be regularly collected, to prevent losing time in a crisis situation, eg evaluating a fast spreading epidemic in Europe. This does not typically fit within the zoonoses report or lead to improvement, but could be taken up separately aiming at increased preparedness of EFSA.
Efforts should continue to improve and develop the zoonoses report, aiming at making the data presented as valid, complete and representative as possible.
Duplications between data collection and reporting exercises should be avoided. Any proposed change in the data collection, analysis and reporting should be shared, discussed and agreed with all interested parties.
The AHAW Panel proposes that inclusion of new diseases in the zoonoses report should start with a list ofinfections proposed from public health viewpoint, subsequently to be evaluated for inclusion in the zoonoses report by using criteria based on the principles explained in Section 3. A periodical repetition of such an exercise will be important.
It is recommended that data needs are analysed further to help improving the AHAW preparedness to answer risk assessment questions in the form of some readily available more stable data and good knowledge of ad-hoc data sources throughout the EU.