Port Blair, July 5: World Zoonoses Day is observed on July 6th every year to raise awareness about the risk of zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. The day commemorates the work of French Biologist Louis Pasteur, who successfully administered the first vaccine against rabies, a zoonotic disease, on July 6, 1885. The observance emphasizes the importance of understanding zoonoses, improving control and prevention measures, and promoting the One Health approach.

The One Health program is vital because it promotes an integrated approach to health that recognizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. Here are some key reasons for its importance: Emerging Infectious Diseases, Antimicrobial Resistance, Food Safety and Security, Environmental Health, Economic Benefits, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health, and Policy and Education.

Zoonotic infections can infect humans directly or through food, water, the environment, or other unorthodox means. They can also be bacterial, viral, parasitic, or involve other unusual agents. Because of our intimate ties to animals in the natural world, in agriculture, and as companions, they pose a serious threat to global public health. Humans can become infected with zoonotic infections through any point of contact with domestic, wild, or agricultural animals. Markets that sell wild animal meat or by-products are especially vulnerable since some wild animal populations are known to harbour a significant number of novel or unrecognized diseases. Workers in the agricultural sector may be more vulnerable to infections resistant to the antimicrobial medications now on the market if antibiotic use for farm animals is high in the area. People who live near wilderness regions or in semi-urban settings where there are more wild animals present run the risk of contracting diseases from rodents like rats, foxes, or raccoons.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands present a varied and complex challenge due to the unique ecological and geographical features of the region. Key zoonotic diseases in this area include leptospirosis, malaria, dengue, chikungunya, influenza (swine-flu), and several other vectorborne illnesses. These Islands are considered free from rabies. The Islands also faces issues with diseases affecting aquatic animals, which can indirectly impact human health. For example, diseases in freshwater fish populations can affect local food security and livelihoods.

Efforts to control and prevent these zoonotic diseases involve interdisciplinary approaches under the One Health framework, which integrates human, animal, and environmental health strategies.

Leptospirosis is one of the most common emerging– re-emerging zoonoses, worldwide with special reference to South East Asian countries. This is a significant public health issue in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This is primarily transmitted through water contaminated by animal urine, especially from rodents, making the region's tropical climate and frequent flooding conducive to its spread. One of the reason for emergence and re-emergence in the recent past is due to global warming and climate change leads to extreme weather events such cyclones and floods and thus exposure of large number of people to contaminated water bodies prolonged time resulted in occurrence of epidemics and epizootics in several states.

The ICMR-Regional Medical Research Centre (ICMR-RMRC) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands plays a crucial role in controlling leptospirosis in the region. ICMR-RMRC is WHO Collaborating Centre for Diagnosis, Research, Reference and Training in Leptospirosis.

The Directorate of Health Services (DHS) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands plays a pivotal role in controlling leptospirosis through various strategic measures and initiatives. DHS conducts regular surveillance to monitor the incidence of leptospirosis. This includes collecting and analysing data on reported cases to identify trends, detect outbreaks early, and implement timely interventions. Furthermore, the DHS and Department of AH&VS organizes public awareness campaigns to educate the local population about leptospirosis, its modes of transmission, symptoms, and preventive measures.

The participation and cooperation of general public in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are essential for effective prevention and management of the disease. Key roles of the public are understanding what leptospirosis is, how it spreads, and its symptoms is crucial, learning preventive measures; such as avoiding contact with potentially contaminated water and soil, and wearing protective clothing and footwear, especially during monsoon seasons or in flood prone areas; maintaining clean surroundings to reduce rodent habitats, proper disposal of garbage and food waste can help control the rodent population; engaging in community clean-up drives to remove potential breeding sites for rodents and other pests.