An animal disease is an infectious animal disease caused by biological pathogens. The pathogens may either directly or through the environment be transmitted from one animal to another or from an animal to a human or vice versa (these are called zoonoses). Widespread animal diseases which are caused by non-transmissible agents (diseases spread by insect vectors) are also deemed infectious animal diseases.
An infectious animal disease is deemed especially dangerous if it is likely to spread rapidly in animal populations, cause widespread outbreaks of disease and high mortality rates, or cause significant financial loss. An infectious animal disease which constitutes a serious threat to human life or health is also deemed dangerous.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) was established in 1924 to improve co-operation between countries in preventing and controlling dangerous infectious animal diseases. Estonia joined the OIE in 1992. By now, most of the countries of the world have joined the OIE. Although the organisation is now called the World Organisation for Animal Health, it is still known by the French acronym OIE.
The main tasks of the OIE are to manage a database containing information about the spread of infectious animal diseases in the world, promote co-operation between countries to control infectious animal diseases, spread awareness on effective infectious animal disease control methods, and ensure rapid communication of information on outbreaks of dangerous infectious animal diseases.
In the past, different infectious animal diseases were categorised into groups A and B depending on their speed of spreading and economic loss caused. List A contained especially dangerous infectious animal diseases which spread rapidly. These diseases are also characterised by high mortality of animals, they bring great economic loss, and are difficult to control. Diseases that do not spread as rapidly and which are not as uncontrollable as diseases in list A were categorised in list B. However, these diseases may also result in significant economic loss. Nowadays, infectious animal diseases are no longer categorised into lists A and B and a single list called the OIE List has been prepared.
Pursuant to the national measures of Estonia, infectious animal diseases are categorised into infectious animal diseases subject to notification and infectious animal diseases subject to registration and these have been laid down in a regulation by the Minister of Agriculture. All especially dangerous infectious animal diseases, infectious animal diseases dangerous to humans, and infectious animal diseases which have never been diagnosed in Estonian animal populations or which have not been diagnosed in Estonia for an extended period of time are infectious animal diseases subject to notification. Supervisory officials, authorised veterinarians, veterinarians, veterinary laboratories, and other persons must promptly notify the Veterinary and Food Board of suspicion or diagnosis of an infectious animal disease subject to notification. Cases of diagnosis of an infectious animal disease subject to registration are registered and the Veterinary and Food Board is notified thereof in accordance with the procedure for regular reporting.
To prevent the spread of an infectious animal disease, the Veterinary and Food Board exercises regular supervision in livestock buildings and carries out the required studies in herds. Animals are vaccinated as a preventive measure and the expenses are either born by the state (e.g. vaccination of foxes and raccoon dogs against rabies) or the keeper of the animals (e.g. vaccination of poultry against Newcastle disease) as prescribed.
For the purpose of preventing the spread of an infectious animal disease, a keeper of animals shall strictly follow biosafety measures and promptly notify a veterinarian in case of suspicion.
In the case of an infectious animal disease, the methods laid down in the infectious animal disease control rules are applied and activities prescribed in the code of conduct of the relevant disease are carried out.