Kiwi scientists looking at why Covid-19 spread so fast

A Massey University veterinary scientist says pandemic training on illness transmission between humans and animals was "clearly not enough" to prevent Covid-19 taking off worldwide.

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Veterinary scientist Dr Joanna McKenzie says more effort needs to be put into training doctors and vets, as well as targeting the right areas. Source: Breakfast

The Covid-19 pandemic, just like SARS and Bird Flu, is a reminder of how closely connected the health of people is to the health of animals in our shared environment.

According to the Centre for Disease Control, 75 per cent of the world's new diseases in people come from animals.

Dr Joanna McKenzie is the coordinator for Massey University's One Health Capacity programme.

A long time before Covid-19, the programme had been training vets and doctors in developing countries to help them detect, investigate and respond to new diseases and build relationships within governments so that robust plans are in place to react quickly to a virus outbreak.

Dr McKenzie told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning, "there's actually been a lot of work going on, particularly since the outbreak of SARS and Bird Flu, preparing for pandemics, training doctors and training vets to respond but there's a lot of work to be done.

"The situation with Covid and the beginning of the pandemic in China has played out many many times before with previous outbreaks, similarly with Ebola, with Nipah and different parts of the world so it's really a global issue of responding quickly to outbreaks, to doing good investigations."

However, she also said much can be learned from the Covid-19 outbreak, including having good reporting systems so that when vets or clinicians detect an unusual disease they know where to report it so that it can be investigated quickly.

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Similar testing overseas has identified the presence of the virus in communities before there have been any confirmed cases. Source: 1 NEWS

"The world's put a lot of effort in to preparing for pandemics and training since SARS and even influenza, clearly it's not enough or not targeting in the right areas so we need to be putting more effort in to having trained people on the ground," Dr McKenzie added.

"A lot of effort's gone into surveillance and picking up these diseases but I think there's more need for trained disease experts who know how to do in depth investigations, what information to collect, but also for those programmes to have a link between the disease experts and the senior decision makers.

"Communication is a key, it's not just skills but it's also the relationships and the communication.

"I think getting the right sort of training in place is also critical so that you've got trained people on the ground who know how to respond to a report of an unusual disease and to do a good investigation, get the right information.

"It's often difficult to understand where the disease is coming from in those early stages but it's important to track as many cases as possible and get good information, try and understand how the disease is spreading, how serious it is, and then present that information to the senior decision makers in government in a way that is clear to them and supports them in making decisions."

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Auckland University's Professor Shaun Hendy says the eventual move to Alert Level 1 will be about balancing social, economic and health impacts. Source: Breakfast