Animal health

Introduction

Safeguarding the health of animals and preventing animal diseases serves to protect public health, the environment and the economy of a country.

The concept of animal health covers animal diseases, as well as the interplay between animal welfare, animal health, human health and food safety.

EFSA’s scientific advice to risk managers addresses these closely interlinked fields based on a wide range of cooperation with national and international organisations and the latest scientific knowledge.

Examples of recent work carried out by EFSA include the analysis of the on-going African swine fever, lumpy skin and avian influenza outbreaks, and the revision of information on the main vector-borne diseases. EFSA also publishes annual assessments of surveillance data on Echinococcus multilocularis, a tapeworm that causes a disease known as echinococcosis in wild and domestic carnivores.

Latest

EFSA is working with Member States on the SIGMA project, the aim of which is to automate data submissions on disease outbreaks, surveillance and domestic animal populations. In January 2019 EFSA report proposed an approach that optimises the way data are gathered by Member States and submitted to EFSA for analysis and reporting.

Role

EFSA scientists assess all aspects of health and welfare pertaining to animal production systems and practices that are applied in the EU, as well as conditions resulting from animals interacting with wildlife.

They provide scientific advice to decision makers and consumers on questions relating to animal health and welfare, primarily in food-producing animals.

An integral part of this work has been the development of technical guidance documents and methodological approaches to ensure that EFSA’s approaches to risk assessment related to animal health and welfare are transparent.

EFSA’s work on animal health may follow an outbreak in the EU or an ad hoc request by risk managers. In their risk assessments, EFSA experts assess:

  • the risk of introduction of diseases into the European Union;
  • how diseases spread, including the role of insects in their spread;
  • information on distribution, and possible control measures.

In the event of outbreaks, EFSA experts support Member States in their data collection activities, for example by helping to standardise the way in which they collect data so that these are easier to compare.

EU framework

The EU has legislation covering a number of animal diseases according to their potential social and economic impact. This includes notification obligations, diagnostic methods, and measures to be applied in case of suspicion and confirmation of disease.

In Regulation (EU) 2016/429, or Animal Health Law, the European Commission laid down rules for the prevention and control of animal diseases which are transmissible to animals or humans. These rules include the prioritisation and categorisation of diseases of concern to the EU and apply to the diseases that are listed in its Annex II, amended by Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1629. EFSA supported the Commission in the identification of diseases eligible to be listed.

There are different types of management measures that vary depending on the impact of the diseases on public or animal health, the economy, and society or on the environment – from reporting of the occurrence or suspicion of a listed disease to eradication measures.

The Commission, with the assistance of EFSA and the EU Animal Health Reference Laboratories, carried out a systematic assessment of listed diseases which require intervention and established a list of species posing a risk of spread of those diseases.

These are available in the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/1882 of 3 December 2018

Milestones

2018 – The EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare completes assessments of 29 animal diseases within the framework of the Animal Health Law. The work is used by the European Commissionto ensure high standards of animal and public health in the Union.