Understanding the OIE's Role in Disease Prevention

We often talk about the horse world in the national context, but at the global level the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) assists to protect our horses and the horse industry from infectious disease and to put regulations in place for safe trade and transport between countries.

To help an international audience better understand the OIE's role, Susanne Münstermann, DVM, PhD, of the OIE Scientific and Technical Department in Paris, explained the organization's mission and objectives and gave an overview on international standards and regulations governing international trade of animals and their products as described in the "Terrestrial Animal Health Code" and "Terrestrial Animal Health Manual" during her presentation at the 2012 International Conference on Equine Infectious Disease, held Oct. 22-26 in Lexington, Ky.

"Standards and regulations by their nature are complex, take a lot of time to be agreed upon by those that elaborate them and the countries for which they are applicable, and, hence, to present them is as dry as a bone," Münstermann joked as she opened her presentation to a group of more than 100 veterinarians and researchers. "Therefore, I'm sorry, I cannot ask you to put on your seatbelts so that I can take you on an exciting ride through the world of international horse transportation. Mine is to talk about generalities of OIE principles for disease freedom because we want to transport healthy animals ... and how to harmonize and facilitate international horse movement."

The OIE's Purpose

Münstermann explained that a coalition of European countries formed the OIE in 1924 "to prevent animal diseases from spreading around the world."

Today, the OIE includes 178 member countries, and its purpose has broadened since the organization's formation, with the 5th Strategic Plan 2011/2015 extending the OIE's global mandate to "improve animal health, veterinary public health, animal welfare, and consolidate the animal's role worldwide."

OIE objectives include providing services to its member countries by:

  • Collecting, analyzing, and disseminating veterinary information "so that countries can get a clear picture of the disease situation in the countries which they plan on trading with," Münstermann said;
  • Ensuring transparency in the global animal health situation;
  • Contributing expertise and encouraging a coordinated approach to disease outbreaks;
  • Strengthening veterinary services;
  • Within its World Trade Organization mandate, safeguarding world trade through animal health standards; and
  • Promoting animal welfare and animal production food safety.

OIE Code, Manual, and "Notifiable" Equine Diseases

International standards for animal trade are outlined in the "OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code" and its companion publication, the "OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Manual."

"(The manual) includes diagnostic tests and vaccines that are needed to implement the provisions made in the Code," Münstermann explained.

The "OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code" is divided into two volumes. The first covers general provisions (such as risk analysis, trade, and animal welfare), and the second includes specific information about the 113 diseases that are required reportable to the OIE, defined as "notifiable" diseases.

Current OIE equine notifiable diseases include:

  • African horse sickness;
  • Contagious equine metritis;
  • Dourine;
  • Equine encephalomyelitis (Western and Venezuelan);
  • Rabies;
  • West Nile fever (West Nile virus);
  • Vesicular stomatitis;
  • Equine infectious anemia
  • Equine influenza
  • Equine piroplasmosis;
  • Equine rhinopneumonitis
  • Equine viral arteritis; and
  • Glanders.

The Terrestrial Animal Health Code and Manual are printed every four years, but both are living documents continuously updated by the OIE. "If you want the updated status on any given disease or regulation, consult the website," Münstermann urged.

The OIE's maintenance of these documents and global monitoring of equine infectious diseases helps ensure the health of existing populations in countries as horses are imported and exported for sales and competitions.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.