The Forum and Workshop on Zoonoses in Malaysia took place on 20 November 2020 in two parts: the Forum in the morning took place on Zoom, while the Workshop in the afternoon was conducted on the Microsoft Teams platform.
The forum aims to provide an overview on the current policies, landscape and initiatives, issues, and challenges as well as effective strategies towards ensuring Malaysia’s resilience against zoonotic diseases. Meanwhile, the workshop aims to address on the strategic recommendations to be resilient based on five focus areas:
- Ecosystem and Governance
- Environmental factors
- Research and Development
- Capacity and Capability Development
- Biosafety and Biosecurity Management.
A scene-setting and welcome remark was delivered by Professor Dato’ Dr Mohd Hair Bejo FASc, Chairperson of the ASM Special Interest Group (SIG) on Zoonosis. Following that, the forum commenced, also Moderated by Dato’ Dr Mohd Hair. The forum featured five panelists with their presentations as follows:
- Preparedness and Response to Zoonotic Diseases by Dr Rohani Jahis, Head of Zoonosis Sector, Ministry of Health (MOH)
- Wildlife Conservation Efforts in Preventing Zoonotic Disease Outbreaks by Dr Jeffrine Rovie Ryan Japning Principal Research Officer Ex-Situ Conservation Division, Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN), Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources
- Historical and Future Trends of Climate Change in Malaysia by Prof Dr Fredolin Tangang, FASc Professor of Climatology and Oceanography, Department of Earth Sciences and Environment, Faculty of Science and Technology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
- Developing a Resilient Community Towards Preparedness Against Zoonotic Diseases by Mr Sapian Mamat, Senior Assistant Director of the Coordination Division, National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA), Prime Minister’s Department, Malaysia
- Veterinary Services as a First Line Defence in Managing Zoonotic Diseases by Dr Rozanah Asmah Abd Samad Director of Veterinary Research Division, Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry
A total of 134 participants joined the forum and workshop, comprising representatives from ministries, government agencies, universities, research institutes, industry, and NGO associations. The input from the expert will contribute to the formulation of the strategic recommendations to ensure resilients against zoonotic diseases.
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has profoundly impacted human health, societies, and economies in every corner of the world. Available evidence suggests that this illness is zoonotic, an infectious disease that is transmitted from animals to humans.
Currently, COVID-19 appears to be one of the worst zoonotic diseases, however it is not the first. Among the other zoonotic diseases in Malaysia which originated either from animals or the livestock include Nipah virus infection (1998), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) (2003), avian influenza (2004, 2009 and 2014), the Zika virus disease (2016), leptospirosis, rabies, bovine tuberculosis, Q-fever, salmonellosis, malaria, brucellosis, Japanese encephalitis, toxoplasmosis, and ornithosis. It is paramount to consolidate our understanding on the transmission of zoonoses, the threats they pose to human health and how to minimise the risk of further devastating outbreaks.
To date, different approaches have been used to respond to each pandemic, however, most efforts to control zoonotic diseases have been reactive rather than proactive. COVID-19 has made us cognizant to the fact that zoonoses is a global challenge that cuts across every discipline and border. This has resulted in a number of collective actions through proactive decisions, however more can be done.
Moving forward, we need to focus on being resilient and agile through the adoption of effective integrated control measures and prevention strategies in preparing the country and the Rakyat to face different kinds of pandemics in the future. Preventing the next pandemic by ensuring Malaysia’s resilience against zoonotic diseases is a critical element to be addressed in pandemic preparedness plan.