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The Many Faces of Veterinarians

Like many other professions, veterinarians contribute more to society than what meets the eye, or, better said, than what the common depictions we have of them. Veterinarians do not only deal with animal welfare by controlling and treating animal diseases and ensuring proper farm conditions. They also engage with human welfare. Veterinarians work, along with other professions, to assure the safety of animal source foods for human consumption. They also contribute to economic stability, by preventing the occurrence and spread of diseases in economically important species.

Two men looking at a computer screen on avian flu

The animal-human interface is an important area for public health prevention measures. UF/IFAS File Photo

Pandemic’s Impact on Veterinarian Services

At this point, it is probably useless to say that the current pandemic has affected all aspects of our society, in some cases, even in unexpected ways. Services that veterinarians provide were also affected.

With this in mind, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) conducted a survey among its members to understand how the delivery of veterinary services was affected by the pandemic. The survey was conducted in July through August of 2020. Due to several factors, such as the fact that veterinarians also had movement restrictions and time constraints (for example, some were assisting the human public health sector), there was a low response rate (16 percent).

Nonetheless, the findings are important to remind us of the interactions in our complex society. These also remind us how much holistic prevention and control measures should be in the limelight. Lastly, the results also highlight how important communication is between countries and global agencies.

Main Survey Findings

Most of the countries that responded (28/30) confirmed that the pandemic had a negative impact on the delivery of services. Some of the affected services mentioned were vaccination of animals and inspection of animal source foods for human consumption.

Man holding a bat

Vet services have been impacted worldwide due to the pandemic. UF/IFAS File Photo

Few (7/30) were contributing to the control of the pandemic by analyzing human samples for the diagnosis of COVID-19. Most of the ones that could not contribute, were because they either did not have the resources or the authorization to do so.

Most of the respondents stated that there could be a delay in reporting diseases due to the movement restrictions. Nonetheless, some countries still received information from farmers regarding the health status of their animals. This highlights how important collaboration, communication, and a well-established network are.

Lastly, most of the respondents also reported that the services would find it difficult to confront an emergency in the animal health sector, such as a natural disaster, amid the current pandemic.

Veterinarians are a key part of One Health, and the Center has several ongoing collaborations with professionals across Florida and abroad. For example, see our Weekly Zoonotic Updates page for the latest animal disease news.

By Olga Muñoz, One Health Center Graduate Assistant