12 Days to go…
Good morning everybody. Its 4:30 am on Sunday morning and it is 12 days to go. I wanted to give a bit of background as to why this site is here in the first place. So, if you are dropping by and have no idea about One Health and Zoonotic Diseases, this article is for you…
I live in Pretoria, South Africa, in a large house with my 2 dogs and 2 cats and Max the creepy crawler who lives in the pool. I get paid to be Gauteng province’s veterinary epidemiology state veterinarian.
Epidemiology has got nothing to do with skin. It is actually the study of diseases in populations. Any population for that matter. But I have chosen to focus on animal populations and the human population and the interaction between the two.
I know it sounds hectic and up there somewhere in the intellectual hemispheres…but really it’s not. Each one of us, is, in one way or the other, is dealing with populations everyday. I live in a mini population of pets. To illustrate: about a month ago, Dewey, the white cat, Jilly, my little black dog, and I, were all coughing. It was miserable, we all felt very sorry for ourselves. Did we infect one another? How would I know? This is a question any mom will ask, it is also the questions epidemiologists tend to ask.
About six months ago, South Africa had a ‘One Health’ meeting. This was a meeting of different key persons in the fields of public health, veterinary medicine, ecology, wildlife management, environmental health etc. The ‘One Health’ initiative, i.e. multiple disciplines working together to reduce disease in the human population and/or animal population and environment, is a movement that is directing professionals across the globe, as people realize that we have to work together if we want to achieve our individual objectives, like for example, reduce animal diseases.
At this meeting, it was announced that South Africa would be participating in the international One Health Day celebrations, and part of this was a call for a multidisciplinary team of students to get together and organise a One Health Day event.
So, we pulled together a team consisting of myself, scientists who were studying various zoonotic diseases, a medical doctor who is studying public health, a public health student, an ecology student, a veterinary student, a communications student, four translation students and four drama students. Our mission was to create public awareness material that any person would be able to understand. We wanted a social science student or an anthropology student but we couldn’t find one at such short notice. We had an education student, but she couldn’t commit to the time needed to make things happen.
In South Africa at the moment, we are having a bit of drama with the Fees Must Fall movement. This has affected the students dramatically, and many of them had to leave campus and go to their homes which is not in the province.
But, all in all, we are a very multidisciplinary team working to create a single output: Zoonotic Disease Awareness material for the lay person. We are being supported by our faculties and by GDARD (Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development), which is where I work.
This site was created to give the student team a platform to educate a wider audience and to make our products and disease information easily accessible to the public.
The reason I write stories, is because I have found that there is no better teacher than real life experience. Often when doctors and scientists speak about diseases and their importance, it is in a clinical vacuum, far removed from the emotion and reactive behavior that is a natural part of experiencing knowledge or facts. So, my little articles are aimed at bridging that gap, to put scientific facts back into the context of the society we live and function in.
….happy day ahead…