Human and animal sentinels for shared health risks

Vet Ital. 2009 Jan-Mar;45(1):23-4.


The tracking of sentinel health events in humans in order to detect and manage disease risks facing a larger population is a well accepted technique applied to influenza, occupational conditions, and emerging infectious diseases. Similarly, animal health professionals routinely track disease events in sentinel animal colonies and sentinel herds. The use of animals as sentinels for human health threats, or of humans as sentinels for animal disease risk, dates back at least to the era when coal miners brought caged canaries into mines to provide early warning of toxic gases. Yet the full potential of linking animal and human health information to provide warning of such "shared risks" from environmental hazards has not been realized. Reasons appear to include the professional segregation of human and animal health communities, the separation of human and animal surveillance data, and evidence gaps in the linkages between human and animal responses to environmental health hazards. The One Health initiative and growing international collaboration in response to pandemic threats, coupled with development the fields of informatics and genomics, hold promise for improved sharing of knowledge about sentinel events in order to detect and reduce environmental health threats shared between species.

Keywords: Animal sentinels; Biodiversity; Comparative medicine; Environmental Health; Genomics; Medical Informatics; Sentinel surveillance; Zoonoses.