European Veterinary Week: Raising awareness about health risks at border crossings and in farms

(07.11.2008) Over the next week, travellers entering or exiting the European Union will be reminded actively and creatively of the health risks involved in the illegal import from third countries of pets and animal products, such as cheese or meat.

Raising awareness about biosecurity at EU borders is one of the main goals of the first European Veterinary Week (EVW), organised between November 10 and 16.

Through this week, the Commission also aspires to raise awareness about biosecurity at farm-level, where the importance of vaccination in preventing diseases will be highlighted. These goals will be achieved through a variety of activities.

Travellers, for example, will be reminded of the health risks at ports of entry through specially designed stands, posters, leaflets, luggage tags and a video. This information campaign will expand beyond the boundaries of the week and into the next year through a roadshow

Health Commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou, said: "'The guiding principle of the EU's Animal Health Strategy is 'prevention is better than cure'. If their spread is not prevented, certain animal diseases can affect public health. Or to put it another way, healthy animals equals healthy people. The aim of the first European Veterinary Week is to highlight the important role that vets, farmers and the travelling public all play in preventing the spread of animal diseases."

Healthy animals for healthy people

The week will open on Monday with a high-level conference in Brussels, entitled "One Health: Healthy Animals = Healthy People." This event aims to stimulate dialogue on successful information campaigns and cooperation between the different players in the field of animal health, for the implementation of effective biosecurity measures at borders and on-farm.

It will examine the positive impacts of high animal health standards on human health and consumer wellbeing. Panel discussions will look at issues such as on-farm biosecurity, import controls and the "One Health" concept.

The conference is expected to attract about 400 participants – veterinarians, politicians, academics, scientists and representatives of international organisations.

Biosecurity

The main theme of the EVW is biosecurity. If they are not careful, travellers can unwittingly bring into the EU animal diseases by carrying animal products in their luggage. At airports, ports and other border crossings, they will be reminded during this week of the risks involved in terms of animal health. The information will be passed on to them in a variety of ways. Posters have been prepared in 35 languages and will be displayed in prominent locations.

A postcard, leaflets and luggage tags exist in all EU languages and they will be distributed at points of entry, where a video –also in 35 languages– will be screened. The Commission hopes airline companies will screen this video during their flights.

The role of farmers and veterinarians in biosecurity at farm-level is extremely important. At this level, biosecurity covers measures to prevent or limit the spread of animal diseases.

One of the central messages during the EVW will be the importance of vaccination in prevention. The Commission has prepared a calendar for 2009 that will be distributed to vets and farmers. It contains 12 key biosecurity tips, one for every month of the year and it is translated in all EU languages.

Roadshow

In the spirit of the EVW, a roadshow will also start on Monday and it will go on until June 2009. During this period of time, a customised vehicle will be visiting agricultural and tourism fairs around the EU. The vehicle will also stop at airports and be driven to relevant public events. On Friday 14 November, the roadshow will be present at the EuroTier agricultural exhibition in Hanover, Germany.

Background

The European Veterinary Week is organised for the first time by the Commission and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE). National authorities are also associated with this initiative and, in particular, the veterinary and customs services of Member States.


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