APCOVE is a consortium of more than 40 veterinary epidemiologists, established to strengthen field veterinary epidemiology capacity in the Asia Pacific region.
APCOVE works with government animal health authorities and educators in the Asia-Pacific region. We help train animal disease detectives to detect, prevent and control animal disease outbreaks that may impact human health, animal health and farmer livelihoods.
APCOVE is led by the University of Sydney and includes veterinary epidemiologists from all veterinary schools of Australia and New Zealand, one veterinary school from the US and schools from eight countries in the Asia Pacific.
APCOVE Advisory Committee includes animal and public health experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Department of Livestock Development (DLD), Thailand, and the National Centre for Epidemiology & Population Health (NCEPH).
Strengthening the capacity of the countries in our neighbourhood also protects Australia from these diseases.
There is a significant risk of spread of transboundary and emerging infectious diseases to Australia as these organisms do not obey national borders. For example, initially starting in one province of China, African swine fever (ASF) spread to several countries in Southeast Asia within a year and decimated the pig population. Australia is at a high risk from incursion of ASF, as its virus fragments have been detected in more than 200 samples of pork products taken from airline passengers and from mail centres. Our concern has further increased with the detection of the disease in Timor Leste, not very far from the Australian border. This obviously increases the risk of incursion to Australia.
Similarly, foot and mouth disease (FMD) is present in many Southeast Asian countries. It has been estimated that a large multi-state FMD outbreak will cause a loss of around $50 billion to the Australian economy.
The potential impact that transboundary animal diseases can cause by entering Australia is huge. By strengthening the capacity of the veterinary workforce in Southeast Asia to contain diseases at their source, we can help to protect Australia from the devastating impact of these diseases.
APCOVE works with country partners to strengthen their existing on-the-job training programs for veterinarians in outbreak investigation and surveillance. Our aims for this project:
Develop 30 quality eLearning modules and case studies on outbreak investigation, surveillance, data analysis, risk analysis, One Health, biosecurity, leadership and communication. This will support the training of field veterinarians in target countries.
Train veterinarians from each of the target countries in field veterinary epidemiology. We will achieve this through online teaching, hands-on applied projects and visiting fellowships to Australia.
Build the capacity of facilitators and mentors in epidemiology, One Health and modern pedagogical methods to ensure effective delivery of existing training programs.
Strengthen networks between local experts to enable them to share their existing resources and knowledge with their peers.
“The infectious agents usually circulate in wildlife and domestic animals before spilling over to the human population. Therefore, it is critical to look for these diseases in animal populations before they get a chance to spread to the human population.”
APCOVE Joint Director
Associate Professor in Veterinary Biostatistics and Epidemiology (The University of Sydney)
Transboundary and emerging infectious diseases
Transboundary and emerging infectious diseases are increasing in incidence due to a range of factors including rapid population growth, urbanisation, land use change, encroachment of wild habitats and increasing global air travel. These diseases can spread rapidly across borders and can have huge economic and health impacts.
It is now well known that about three quarters of these emerging infectious diseases, such as Nipah, SARS and avian influenza originate from animal populations. The infectious agents usually circulate in wildlife and domestic animals before spilling over to the human population. Therefore, it is critical to look for these diseases in animal populations before they get a chance to spill over to the human population.
Developing capacity in conducting animal disease surveillance will help to detect emerging infectious diseases in animals before they have a chance to spread to humans. Strengthening capacity in investigating and managing disease outbreaks will help to halt their spread, thus preventing their devastating impacts on health, economy and food security.