Canada will “prioritize” biological threat reduction when it takes over the G7 presidency in 2018, a senior bureaucrat says.
Then there’s the potential national security risks biological threats pose.
“To further complicate matters, it is an unfortunate reality that there are those … who seek to acquire, to modify and to use disease deliberately as a weapon of war or terror,” Gwozdecky said, recalling the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States that killed five people and cost governments billions of dollars.
“While these threats, both natural and intentional are formidable, they are not beyond our means to overcome,” he said. “Key to this, however, will be enhanced cooperation, collaboration and collective effort.”
“We look forward to engaging all of our partners to identify new ways, means and opportunities to strengthen global biological security,” Gwozdecky added.
Data from the OIE show 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases in humans — including Ebola, HIV and influenza — have an animal origin, while 80 per cent of agents with potential bioterrorist use are zoonotic pathogens (diseases that can pass from animals to humans).
The American Centre for Disease Control defines emerging diseases as infections “whose incidence in humans has increased in the past two decades or threatens to increase in the near future” and know no national borders.
Canada is no stranger to global efforts to reduce biological threats; Canadian officials help to train experts in laboratory best practices and detection policies in several developing countries.
Winnipeg is home to the country’s only level four laboratory, a high-security facility that specializes in research involving risky pathogens. The lab is part of a global network (called the BSL4Znet) intended to improve global information and resource sharing around potential biological threats.
Canada’s ongoing role in the BSL4Znet network could easily complement Ottawa’s G7 efforts in 2018, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Chief Science Officer Primal Silva told reporters. The CFIA is responsible for animal health in Canada while the Public Health Agency of Canada is responsible for human health concerns.