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One Health Newsletter Veterinary Public Health (VPH) Special PRIMARY Interest Group (SPIG) Of The American Public Health Association (APHA)

In This Issue

Summer 2020 Newsletter

  • This Year's Annual Meeting and Other Important VPH Announcements
  • COVID-19 and Animals: An Evolving and Fascinating Story
  • Global Health Security Agenda: A One Health Approach to Federal Policy
  • How our Changing Climate has Downstream Effects on our Immunity
  • VPH Member Spotlight: Meet our New Membership Committee Member!
  • Using Earth Observations for COVID-19 Response Efforts
  • One Health in Action: Service Dogs Help Military Veterans Live With Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Other Disabilities
  • Upcoming Events
  • Get Involved with the VPH SPIG

Editor: Jessica S. Schwind, VPH Communication Chair

This Year's Annual Meeting and Other Important VPH Announcements

By Jessica S. Schwind, Communication Chair

Annual Meeting Information

Registration is now open!

After careful consideration of the health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, APHA has announced the APHA 2020 Annual Meeting and Expo will be an all-virtual event. For more information, please visit the APHA Annual Meeting website. Registration opened on July 1st, and notifications for abstract acceptance went out on June 2nd. The virtual meeting will occur over the same days as originally scheduled. The VPH will have both oral and poster sessions, so be on the lookout for more information!

Membership Engagement Survey

The Veterinary Public Health SPIG is looking for ways to better serve and engage our members. We would greatly appreciate your feedback on the VPH Membership Engagement Survey found here. Completing this short, 5-minute survey will help us set our goals for the remaining half of the year. Thank you to all members who have already participated! The survey closes soon, so be sure to have your voice heard!

VPH Elections

Would you like to shape the future of the Veterinary Public Health SPIG? We are requesting nominations for the positions of Secretary, Treasurer, Section Councilor (2 openings), and Student Liaison. You can visit the APHA Section Election website for more information. We are also currently looking for volunteers to serve on VPH committees. Our current committees include Communication, Membership, and Policy committees. This is a great opportunity for engagement in the Veterinary Public Health community, so please reach out through the Membership Engagement Survey or through our website if you are interested!

Other Announcements

The American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine (ACVPM) seeks new Diplomates to join some of the most distinguished veterinary professionals in preventive medicine and public health at national and international levels. The board certification exam application window is NOW OPEN and closes August 31, 2020 for the ACVPM exam offered in June 2021. Do you have at least 4 years’ experience and knowledge in the area of veterinary preventive medicine? Looking for an avenue to further your professional career? Have a personal goal of learning more? Then the ACVPM exam might be your next step. Here is an 11-minute video outlining the benefits of ACVPM board certification. It takes time to apply, including finding an ACVPM Diplomate Sponsor and this video will help you streamline the application process and learn about the qualification requirements. For more information, visit www.acvpm.org/page/acvpm-exam.

The Ohio State University Veterinary Public Health Program was recently recertified by the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine (ACVPM) and will remain accredited through 2025. This re-certification is a testament to the program’s strong history of graduates passing the ACVPM Board Certification Examination and entering the public health workforce. The Ohio State University’s program is an option within the Master of Public Health degree program created through a collaborative effort between the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Public Health. Designed to fulfill the need for professionals to gain the knowledge and skills to address the problems of zoonotic and food-borne diseases, the program provides specialized training in Veterinary Public Health for veterinarians and other professionals who wish to be trained in the epidemiology of zoonotic and food-borne diseases, food safety, environmental heath, emergency preparedness and response, as well as to obtain a strong base in biostatistics and epidemiology. The program is led by Drs. Armando Hoet and Amanda Berrian.

"Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air."

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

COVID-19 and Animals: An Evolving and Fascinating Story

By Nivedita Ravi-Caldwell, VPH Section Councilor

What we now know as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic began in late 2019 as a cluster of cases in Wuhan, China, associated with a large wholesale fish and live animal market. The outbreak was termed “Pneumonia of Unknown Etiology (PUE)”. Since then, we have learned a lot about this novel coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, but there is still a lot unknown about it, especially when it comes to its manifestation in animals. SARS-CoV-2 belongs to a group of coronaviruses called betacoronavirus which include MERS-CoV (the cause of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS-CoV (the cause of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Genetic sequence data has shown us that, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2 may have its origin in bats (1). However, the exact animal source, mechanism of evolution, and original route of transmission to humans (which may have involved an intermediate host) are yet unknown (1, 2). There are no documented cases of direct bat-to-human transmission of coronaviruses. These coronaviruses have been transmitted from bats to humans through an intermediate host (1). In the case of SARS-CoV-2, the pangolin has been identified as a possible intermediate host (345).

Since it was first detected, COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, has primarily been propagated via person-to-person transmission. Structural studies show that SARS-CoV-2 appears to be optimized for binding to a human receptor termed ACE2 (3) and we have seen that person-to-person spread has been the significant driver of this pandemic. Currently, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in the spread of COVID-19 to people (6). In some instances, some animals, including pets (dogs, cats, ferrets), have developed illness mostly after contact with people with COVID-19 (6). This process is termed “reverse zoonosis”.

Currently, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in the spread of COVID-19 to people

The clinical spectrum of illness for animals is not well defined, but signs that are most likely compatible with SARS-CoV-2 infection include a combination of fever, cough, lethargy respiratory symptoms (cough, difficulty breathing, sneezing, nasal discharge), and gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea) (7). Infected pets might get sick or they might remain free of symptoms. Of the pets that have become sick, most have only had mild illness and have fully recovered (6).

At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in late February 2020, a 17-year-old Pomeranian in Hong Kong tested weak-positive on a SARS-Cov-2 reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test. A “weak positive” result suggested that a small amount of virus genetic material was present in the sample but the test did not distinguish between an intact (live) and infectious virus from fragments of a virus with no ability to cause infection. The dog never developed symptoms of COVID-19-like disease but viral genetic sequences from the dog and its human owner were very similar. By implication, this became the very first case of human-to-animal transmission of the virus. Sadly, the dog died (most likely) due to unrelated underlying health conditions (1). Since that time, a small number of pets (cats and dogs) have been reported with COVID-19 like illness in Belgium, China, Germany, Netherlands, France, Spain, Russia, and the United States.

In April, a tiger tested positive for SARS-Cov-2 at Bronx zoo, New York. The tiger was housed along with four other tigers and three lions in two enclosures. In total, four tigers and all three lions developed signs of mild respiratory disease. The zoo’s laboratory partners developed a fecal sample test that allowed the rest of the large cats to be tested without the need for general anesthesia. General anesthesia can be a risky procedure in captive wild animals, so the development of the fecal test was a breakthrough. All seven animals tested positive. It is presumed that the source of infection was a zookeeper who, at the time of exposure, had not yet developed symptoms of COVID-19 (6).

In April, a tiger tested positive for SARS-Cov-2 at Bronx zoo, New York.

In late April-early May, several minks in four mink farms in the Netherlands developed respiratory and gastrointestinal disease and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (4). Because some workers on these farms had symptoms of COVID-19, it is likely that infected farm workers were the source of the mink infections (6). A surveillance process was initiated by the Netherlands government which identified four additional affected mink farms. Since then several containment procedures, including transport bans on minks, hygiene protocols and visitor bans have been implemented. Given that several cats on the mink farms also tested positive for the virus, mink farmers were asked to restrict the movement of other domestic animals in the farms. Infection in mink varied with some mink being infected without any symptoms to development of pneumonia and death, especially in pregnant animals (8). The most significant aspect of this is the possibility for transmission of SARS-Cov-2 from mink to humans following infection of these animals from infected humans (2).

Recent research has shown that ferrets, cats, and golden Syrian hamsters can be experimentally infected with SARS-CoV-2 and can spread the infection to others of the same species in laboratory settings. Mice, pigs, chickens, and ducks do not seem to become infected or develop illness due to SARS-CoV-2 in a laboratory setting (6).

There is still much to learn more about COVID-19 in animals and pets.

COVID-19 research and response in animals has followed a One Health approach which is a collaborative, transdisciplinary approach working at local, national, and global levels. In the US, a One Health approach has been used to understand how the virus affects animals and to coordinate research and surveillance of affected animals throughout the world. This has required cooperation between state and local health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), various other national partners, and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

There is still much to learn more about COVID-19 in animals and pets. Since there is a small risk that people with COVID-19 could spread the virus to their pets, it is recommended that pet owners limit their pet’s interaction with people outside their household. For more information, please refer to the CDC website on COVID-19 and Animals as well as your respective state health department websites.

"To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow."

— Audrey Hepburn

Global Health Security Agenda: A One Health Approach to Federal Policy

By Katharyn Kryda, VPH Member & Marcela Lievano Martinez, VPH Supporter

As emerging infectious disease threats are revealed by the current COVID-19 pandemic, questions arise as to how multisectoral policy collaborations among federal agencies can assist in preventing future outbreaks. The One Health approach is an integrated platform that fosters cooperation between the human health, animal health, and environmental health sectors and serves as a critical tool to build the capacities needed to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks. The United States government has captured One Health in various federal policies and strategies, and it is also a key aspect of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA).

The United States government has made One Health a key aspect of the GHSA.

Started in 2014, GHSA is an international initiative to build capacity around the globe “to create a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats and elevate health security as a national and global priority.” This expanding group of over 65 countries, international organizations, and nongovernmental stakeholders (1) prioritizes government funding and donor investments to strengthen prevention, detection, and response capacity for outbreak management. Sharing information related to infectious diseases between countries is encouraged, and measurable targets are identified to build health capacity across eleven technical areas that are part of the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2). One Health is fundamental to several of these, and GHSA’s technical areas are as follows:

PREVENT avoidable outbreaks

  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)
  • Zoonotic Diseases
  • Biosafety & Biosecurity
  • Immunization

DETECT threats early

  • National Laboratory System
  • Real-time Surveillance
  • Reporting
  • Workforce Development

RESPOND rapidly and effectively

  • Emergency Operations Centers
  • Linking Public Health with Law Enforcement & Multisectoral Rapid Response
  • Medical Countermeasures (MCM) and Personnel Deployment

GHSA is unique in its multisectoral collaboration and in elevating health security as a national security priority. Multiple federal agencies participate with specific roles and responsibilities first outlined by Executive Order -- Advancing the Global Health Security Agenda to Achieve a World Safe and Secure from Infectious Disease Threats, issued on November 4, 2016 (3). The Department of State (DOS), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Agriculture (USDA), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) all contribute to this whole of government approach to build capacities and fund activities that address infectious disease threats (2). To date, the U.S. government has invested $1 billion in capacity building activities under its commitment to GHSA which are reported annually to the Office of the President (2).

The GHSA initiative is a champion of the One Health approach in various member countries where agencies share information to address the connections between human, animal, and environmental health and respond quickly to potential outbreaks. This includes the creation of One Health committees through formal policy and national legislation and informal collaboration through working groups. One Health is specifically referenced in multiple documents (2, 4, 5), associated with GHSA, and, when not referenced by name, the linkage between human, animal, and environmental health – the core spirit of One Health – is discussed throughout as a critical factor in achieving global health security (1). GHSA acknowledges this is not a challenge any single agency or nation can face alone, but rather is one that requires a multisectoral effort domestically and internationally that engages federal, state, local, and tribal authorities with the community.

Each agency has a role to play in global health security to improve preparedness for future outbreaks. One Health concepts form the foundation for existing global health security policy. Better understanding of the policy landscape by public health professionals will facilitate more effective working relationships across sectors, and increased engagement between diplomacy, policy, and public health will keep us all safer.

Suggested readings for additional awareness of a One Health approach to global health security policy include: GHSA’s most recent annual report (August 2019), the U.S. Government Global Health Security Strategy (May 2019), and the U.S. Health Security National Action Plan (October 2018).

Recent nongovernmental reports that may be of interest include: the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Ending the Cycle of Crisis and Complacency in U.S. Global Health Security: A Report of the CSIS Commission on Strengthening America’s Health Security (November 2019) and the World Bank’s Operational Framework for Strengthening Human, Animal, and Environmental Public Health Systems (2018).

Disclaimer: The views expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Government.

References:

  1. The White House. United States Government Global Health Security Strategy. May 2019. Available here.
  2. Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). Advancing the Global Health Security Agenda: Results and Impact of U.S. Government Investments. August 2019. Available here.
  3. The White House. “Executive Order -- Advancing the Global Health Security Agenda to Achieve a World Safe and Secure from Infectious Disease Threats.” November 4, 2016. Available here.
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. United States Health Security National Action Plan: Strengthening Implementation of the International Health Regulations based on the 2016 Joint External Evaluation. October 2018. Available here.
  5. GHSA. Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) 2024 Framework. November 2018. Available here.

"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

— F. Scott Fitzgerald

How our Changing Climate has Downstream Effects on our Immunity

By Krista Hoevemeyer, VPH Supporter

Our climate is changing at an unprecedented rate; greenhouse gas emissions are warming the troposphere and increasing the levels of CO2 which has wide ranging effects. One effect that has not been given much attention is the nutrition depletion of plants. Increasing CO2 levels affect plant photosynthesis by increasing the amount of carbohydrates in the plants and lowering the level of vitamins and minerals (1). This change in plant structure will greatly impact the amount of nutrients in the human diet. The plants affected by CO2 include barley, wheat, rice and potatoes which are a large portion of the human diet (1). Rice and wheat alone provided two out of every five calories humans consumed in 2014 (2).

Genetically modified plants could be a part of the solution for depleting nutrients due to rising CO2 levels.

While the increasing amount of carbohydrates in plants can have significant human health effects, I am going to focus on the micronutrient depletion, specifically Zinc. Micronutrient deficiency is already an enormous burden on the human population with estimates of 17% of the world being affected by zinc deficiency (3). With CO2 levels rising, it is projected that 138 million additional people will be at risk for zinc deficiency by 2050 (4). Zinc deficiency has implications in human health especially within the immune system. This is of particular interest with the current COVID-19 pandemic. Zinc is an indispensable element of DNA synthesis which is needed in cell replication, and we are continuously making new cells for our immune system. It also greatly affects the T cell response in the body. Without zinc, T-cell dependent and independent responses are depressed, IL-2 is lower, natural killer cells and T-cytolytic cell activities are lowered (5). Zinc is also a critical component of Toll-Like receptors which help macrophages phagocytose and destroy bacteria and viruses (5). Additionally, zinc is used in the process of producing superoxide anions which helps kill pathogens within the body (5). Without this essential micronutrient, humans may have a less robust response to any pathogen.

Agricultural production is changing drastically under a changing climate both from yield and nutrient perspectives.

Which brings us back to the depletion of zinc in our food sources. The burden will be mostly felt by developing nations with a less diverse diet, but many people of developed nations will be effected as well, especially on a subclinical scale. Zinc deficiency will also likely be felt disproportionately across the American population especially for the elderly and children. Many solutions have been proposed such as genetically modifying crops or supplementation. Zinc supplementation could help alleviate the deficiency burden and improve health, as it has been found that zinc supplementation decreases child mortality, incidence of diarrhea, and incidence of acute lower respiratory illnesses (6). However, subclinical deficiency is not readily diagnosed or recognized. As a scientific community, we need to better understand the correlation between human actions, the environment and health of all things living. We can make creative solutions to these seemingly massive problems if we recognize the bigger picture to help engage and encourage cross-disciplinary work.

Potatoes are a staple in many diets around the globe, and the depletion of protein and nutrient content of this plant will greatly impact human health.

References:

  1. Ziska, L., A. Crimmins, A. Auclair, S. DeGrasse, J.F. Garofalo, A.S. Khan, I. Loladze, A.A. Pérez de León, A. Showler, J. Thurston, and I. Walls, 2016: Ch. 7: Food Safety, Nutrition, and Distribution. The impacts of climate change on human health in the United States: A scientific assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, 189–216. http://dx.doi.org/10.7930/J0ZP4417
  2. Loladze, I. (2014). Hidden shift of the ionome of plants exposed to elevated CO2 depletes minerals at the base of human nutrition. Ecology, Epidemiology and Global Health. http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02245
  3. Wessells, R., Brown, K. (2012). Estimating the global prevalence of zinc deficiency: results based on zinc availibity in national food supplies and the prevalence of stunting. PLoS One, 7(11). http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0050568
  4. Soares, J., Santos, C., Carvalho, S, Pintado, M., Vasconcelos M. (2019). Preserving the nutritional quality of crop plants under a changing climate: importance and strategies. Plant Soil, 443: 1-26. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11104-019-04229-0
  5. Watly, J., Potocki, S., Rowiriska-Zyrek, M. (2016). Zinc Homeostasis at the bacteria/host interface-from coordination chemistry to nutritional immunity. Chemistry: A European Journal, 22, 1-20. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/chem.201602376
  6. Gibson, R. S. (2012). Zinc deficiency and human health: etiology, health consequences, and future solutions. Plant and Soil, 361: 291-299. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11104-012-1209-4

"I almost wish we were butterflies and liv'd but three summer days - three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain."

— John Keats

VPH Member Spotlight: Meet our new Membership Committee Member!

Special Guest: Cody J. Waldrop, VPH Membership Committee Member

Cody on the day he adopted Barley in 2012. Photo Credit: Cody J. Waldrop

Cody got his start back in 2006 when he started working as a Kennel Attendant while in High School. Over the years, he has worked in a variety of roles in the veterinary field but now his focus is on multi-unit hospital management and leadership. He currently works for VCA Animal Hospitals as an Area Manager that manages the daily operations at his home hospital in addition to having oversight of five other veterinary hospitals across the state of Florida. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Public Health along with a Minor in Biomedical Physics from the University of South Florida in 2011. Cody is also a Certified Veterinary Business Leader and a Certified Compassion Fatigue Professional. He is currently studying to become a Certified Veterinary Hospital Manager. He is an active member of the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA), American Public Health Association (APHA), American Animal Health Association (AAHA), Florida Association of Veterinary Practice Managers (FAVPM) and the University of South Florida Alumni Association. Cody serves on the Industry Advisory Panel with VHMA and more recently has gotten involved on the Membership Committee for the APHA Veterinary Public Health SPIG. When he is not at work, Cody enjoys traveling and visiting new local breweries with Barley- his English Bulldog.

Question 1) How did you first get interested in One Health/Veterinary Public Health as a concept?

When I was 16, I started working as a Kennel Attendant at an animal hospital and quickly learned about the different Zoonotic Diseases and other Occupational Hazards that I could be potentially exposed to working in a veterinary hospital. I found these subjects completely interesting and this led my path to studying Public Health in undergrad while continuing to work in veterinary hospitals as a Veterinary Technician.

Question 2) What is your favorite part about working in One Health/Veterinary Public Health?

My favorite part of working in One Health/Veterinary Public Health is that many do not believe I work in a Public Health role. This leads to many conversations where I can educate people that many careers can have an impact on Veterinary Public Health/One Health. My role being in hospital management heavily focuses on preventive medicine protocols, OSHA compliance, client education, compassion fatigue and promoting the human-animal bond.

Question 3) As the new membership committee member of VPH, what are some of your goals for this coming year?

As the new membership committee member of VPH, I am excited to work with Holly and Jessica. My goals are to increase awareness of VPH to help gain new members to be granted Section Status and to reach out to my professional network to bring CE opportunities to the group.

Question 4) Do you have any words of advice for members wanting to be more active in the group or in One Health, in general?

My words of advice would be to network, network, network. Reach out to fellow colleagues and see what projects they are working on!

Barley enjoying some attention from elementary students at the Great American Teach-In. Cody and Barley taught students the importance of taking care of your pets. Photo Credit: Cody J. Waldrop

The VPH SPIG is appreciative of your time and service to the VPH SPIG, Cody. Thank you for all that you do!

"Oh, the summer night, has a smile of light, and she sits on a sapphire throne."

Bryan Procter

Using Earth Observations for COVID-19 Response Efforts

By Helena Chapman, VPH Communication Committee Member

Have you ever wondered how satellite data could be used to enhance research applications and health decision-making during emergency responses?

Earth observation data provide real-time information that can inform health decision-making and enhance interventions that mitigate emerging environmental health challenges. To address these efforts, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Health Community of Practice serves as a global network of researchers and practitioners who use satellite data to enhance health decision-making across local, national, and international levels. The leadership team, chaired by John Haynes (NASA) and Juli Trtanj (NOAA), coordinates quarterly teleconferences, supports an annual in-person meeting at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, and participates in the regional and international GEO activities supported by the GEO Secretariat.

This group was strategically placed when the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (January 30, 2020) and pandemic (March 11, 2020) by the World Health Organization. This critical moment marked an opportunity to strengthen transdisciplinary collaborations across environmental health disciplines, as they relate to COVID-19 response efforts.

Since March 2020, the GEO Health Community of Practice has coordinated weekly community teleconferences, where global experts have shared and discussed how satellite data can advance understanding of the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 on human, animal, and environmental health. These topics have included air and water quality, disaster preparedness and management, environmental determinants and seasonality, and One Health and zoonotic disease transmission. Through these weekly teleconferences, professional networks have motivated small-group discussions (e.g. environmental determinants, seasonality, air and water quality, regional networks) and shared Earth observation data, tools, and resources to support global COVID-19 response efforts.

Notably, these community teleconferences have encouraged researchers and practitioners to expand scientific and educational outreach efforts for the global audience. First, the NASA Health and Air Quality Applications team was invited to present two talks on Utilizing Earth Observations for Improved Air Quality and Health Decisions and Strengthened One Health Collaborations for the Space4Health Webinar by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in May 2020. This two-part webinar informed audiences of an array of initiatives where space applications have supported global health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, the GEO Health Community of Practice was requested by the GEO Secretariat to organize the Earth Observations for COVID-19 Response and Recovery session of the GEO Virtual Symposium in June 2020. Representatives from NASA, NOAA, and the European Commission coordinated a “world tour”, where panelists from across geographic regions shared preliminary findings on how climatological, environmental, and meteorological factors have influenced COVID-19 transmission to date, noting the lockdown restrictions implemented across countries. Third, several GEO Health Community of Practice members joined the Scientific Committee to coordinate the Climatological, Meteorological and Environmental Factors in the COVID-19 Pandemic, which will be held virtually from August 4-6, 2020. This international virtual symposium on drivers, predictability, and actionable information aims to synthesis current findings on the influence of environmental variables on COVID-19 spread and facilitate a wider discussion on priorities and challenges across geographic regions.

This global network serves as one example where dedicated researchers and practitioners have identified opportunities to build innovative, transdisciplinary collaborations that advance scientific discovery, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earth observation data can offer essential information about the dynamic processes of the aquatic, atmospheric, and terrestrial ecosystems, which can validate ground-based fieldwork applications. By understanding the potential environmental health impacts on human and animal health, national and international authorities will be informed to coordinate community education campaigns, develop timely policies, and allocate resources that safeguard population health.

"Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."

– Henry James

One Health in Action: Service Dogs Help Military Veterans Live With Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Other Disabilities

By Shirley Smart, VPH Supporter

When I think of human-animal-environment interaction, I think of service dogs. More specifically, I think of service members who have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other disabilities as a result of their military experiences. Service dogs are instrumental in helping such individuals regain their life and social functioning. Although service dogs provide meaningful relationships and assistance for non-veterans, I will focus on the military, specifically service members who have PTSD resulting from traumatic events they experienced while deployed.

Training service dogs to help service members and veterans.*

Specially trained service dogs help service members and veterans who have flashbacks, bad dreams (yes, flashbacks and bad dreams, although both are horrendous, are different), depression, guilt, difficulty sleeping, fear, and worry. This is the situation for about one-third of the men and women who have been deployed to war zones. They often have difficulty relating emotionally to others, are unable to tolerate being in large groups of people or noisy or darkened areas. Many also have physical disabilities such as missing limbs, paralysis, and/or chronic pain. Service dogs can, and do, help. By creating boundaries to prevent strangers from coming too close, service dogs help to reduce hypervigilance and anxiety. Their presence helps veterans turn their attention from invasive, trauma-related thoughts and return their focus to the present. Other reported benefits of the veteran-service dog relationship include increased community participation, reduced suicidal impulses, improved emotional connections with others, and reduced medication (1). A specially trained service animal can sense when his owner begins to become anxious, then move close so the veteran can touch or pet the animal, gradually relaxing because of the dog’s calming presence. Service dogs can turn on lights in darkened rooms before the veteran enters (many of their traumatic events occurred in dark areas), alert them to someone approaching from behind, keep others from coming too close, and help with flashbacks by moving close to the individual so he/she can feel the dog’s comforting presence. Accompanied by their service dogs, which are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), those with service dogs are able to go to restaurants, family and community events, and travel. Thus they regain some of their lost independence and are able to “get their life back.”

Those with service dogs are able to go to restaurants, family and community events, and travel. Thus they regain some of their lost independence and are able to “get their life back."*

I like this quote of a veteran describing his relationship with his service dog.

“I was startled awake, only to find the lights already on. My service dog—my partner, my lifeline, my friend—nudged my arm and handed me a cold bottle of water. I hugged the cool container to my chest, rocking slightly, as she jumped into bed with me and laid across my legs. Abandoning the water, I wrapped my arms around her as her soothing weight began to settle my nerves. She gently licked my cheeks and I whispered into her fur, “Thanks for being there.” The nightmare was long gone so we settled back down to sleep” (Grace, n.d.).

There are also environmental benefits. With the aid of a service dog, disabled veterans are less likely to become homeless or require institutionalization. Substance abuse and over-medication are reduced, as are suicides. For those veterans who are unable to overcome their PTSD through therapy, service dogs can help to improve quality of life and enable the veteran to function in society. A 2018 study found reduced depression, higher social functioning and improved quality of life among veterans with service dogs. Although no differences in employment status were reported, lower absenteeism due to health was found among those who were employed (2). Service dogs for veterans are a win-win-win for One Health.

Proud service members and veterans alongside their service dogs.*

*Pictures for this article were provided by Canines for Service, an organization that trains and makes service dogs available for many people. A short video, “Canines for Service Skills Demo” exhibits some of the ways service dogs are able to help the veterans.

References:

  1. Yarborough, B. J. H., Stumbo, S. P., Yarborough, M. T., Owen-Smith, A., Green, C. A. (2018). Benefits and challenges of using service dogs for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 41(2): 118-124.
  2. O’Haire, M. E. and Rodriguez, K. E. (2018). Preliminary efficacy of service dogs as a complementary treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder in military members and veterans. Journal of Consulting Clinical Psychology, 86(2): 179-188. doi: 10.1037/ccp0000267

"We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it's our garden that is really nurturing us."

– Jenny Uglow

Upcoming Events

July

COVID-19 Conversations, Webinars from APHA and National Academy of Medicine (Ongoing)

A Tale of Two Pandemics: How COVID-19 & Racism Intersect with Intimate Partner Violence, American Public Health Association Webinar, 7/23

September

One Health Plenary Session, World Vaccine Conference: The importance of a One Health approach to biodefense and biosecurity, 9/27-9/29

Many events globally have been cancelled or rescheduled due to COVID-19. We will provide the latest rescheduled dates in a future newsletter.

"Books and summertime go together."

 Lisa Schroeder

Get Involved with the VPH SPIG!

Join us.

We would love for you to get involved! Please consider becoming a member of the largest public health association in the United States to contribute expertise and help guide practice and policy change. Select the 'Veterinary Public Health Special Primary Interest Group' as one of your sections when signing up at the link below.

Make a Donation.

The APHA VPH group accepts donations to support our outreach programs at the Annual Meeting to help amplify our positive impact. Thank you in advance for donating!

Stay Connected.

The Veterinary Public Health One Health Newsletter is a quarterly publication for APHA's Veterinary Public Health Special Primary Interest Group. Are you involved in a One Health-related program or activity at home or abroad? Does it complement our focus to bring awareness to the human-animal-environment connection and advance the One Health concept? If so, we want to share your story via our newsletter and social media sites! Please contact us at aphavph(at)gmail(dot)com for more information. Thank you for reading!

Credits:

Created with images by Mateus Elias Reis - "Beach and Palm Trees in Brazil" • Fabiana Rizzi - "untitled image" • Yucel Moran - "untitled image" • Jessica Rockowitz - "untitled image" • Nick Karvounis - "Tiger in a zoo" • Matt Nelson - "Walking Dogs" • Aleksandr Eremin - "Sunflowers field" • Esther Wilhelmsson - "untitled image" • Dan Meyers - "This shot makes me thirsty! I love how this shot turned out. I was about 10 meters above the ground with my Mavic Pro. This is a small winery in the mid-Willamette Valley outside Salem, Oregon. This is one of the biggest wine-producing areas in the country and it makes for some wonderful evening drone flights. " • Bence Balla-Schottner - "untitled image" • Bradley Prentice - "bangkok market" • __ drz __ - "untitled image" • Tim Foster - "First night in Eatonville before hitting the Cape Chignecto trail." • Xavi Cabrera - "Tibidado’s wheel" • Farsai Chaikulngamdee - "untitled image" • Aaron Burden - "untitled image"