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WAHIS: the OIE World Animal Health System

June/July/August Monthly dossier

Nowadays, through the effects of globalisation, infectious diseases can often spread at lightning speed. 60 % of the pathogens that affect humans are of animal origin. Effective surveillance that can detect these diseases at their source in animals is therefore crucial so that they can be quickly controlled, thereby protecting animal and humans populations.

Ensuring transparency in the global animal disease situation

Since its creation in 1924, one of the OIE’s historic missions has been to ensure transparency and improve knowledge of the global animal disease situation, including zoonoses.

This explains why, on becoming an OIE Member, each country undertakes to report on the animal health situation within its territory in a timely and transparent manner, and regardless of whether disease events are naturally occurring or deliberate. These declarations are referred to as notifications. To improve the collection of these data, the OIE has, since 2006, created, managed and permanently developed the World Animal Health Information System, WAHIS.

Diagram presenting the OIE’s World Animal Health Information System.

An intergovernmental mandate to ensure transparency of the animal health situation

Only two organisations have a global legal framework allowing them to collect and disseminate world animal health information: the OIE, since 1924 (Basic Texts), and WHO, since 1951 (International Sanitary Regulations).

The OIE then disseminates the collected information worldwide through the World Animal Health Information Database (WAHID) Interface, accessible to all on the OIE website. The information is also sent directly to subscribers to the de la OIE-Infos Distribution List.

These are the only tools that exist for ensuring transparency in the global animal disease situation. They ensure that information is freely available.

The following video explains how they work:

Several levels of information on the global animal disease situation

WAHIS thus processes animal disease data in real time, in order to keep the international community informed. This system is open to the 180 OIE Member Countries, as well as non-members.

WAHIS has two components:

  • An early warning system to provide information on exceptional epidemiological events or emerging diseases, through ‘alert messages’ generated upon receipt of immediate notifications.
  • A continuous surveillancesystem for monitoring the presence or absence of the 119 diseases listed by the OIE. The information is compiled in six-monthly (terrestrial and aquatic animals) and annual reports from Member Countries. The latter also contain background information on matters such as the Veterinary Services, vaccine production and animal populations.

For more information

Highly reliable animal disease information

Information published in WAHIS is highly reliable. First, it is validated by the Veterinary Services of the reporting country, after which it is verified by the OIE prior to publication.

In parallel, since 2002 the OIE has been searching for and verifying non-official animal health information and rumours, to ensure that its knowledge of the world animal health situation is as exhaustive as possible.

For more information: Active search for non-official animal health information

Constant improvement of the information system

In response to growing demand, the OIE is constantly improving the WAHIS system, notably:

  • by helping Member Countries to improve their surveillance and notification systems;
  • by facilitating the collection and dissemination of information through the use of new technologies;
  • by providing for the existing database to incorporate additional genetic information on pathogens.

A synthesis of world animal health information is compiled in the annual publication World Animal Health. The 2014 edition, relating to 2013, will soon be available on the OIE website and can be ordered through the Online Bookshop.

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