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Invasive species: the health of European animals is affected by new viruses, bacteria and parasites


26 May 2011


EU Priorities 2020
Health & Consumers

Brussels, 24 May 2011 - Viruses, bacteria and parasites affecting animal health should also be taken into account when tackling invasive species in the European Union.  Declan O’Brien, Managing Director of the European Federation for Animal Health-Europe spoke today at a European Parliament hearing on “the challenge of invasive species and destructive insects”. The event was organised by the European Parliament Intergroup on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development, and by its committee Chair MEP Gaston Di Franco (France).

Invasive species pose a major and fast growing threat to the native biodiversity in Europe. Plants and animals can find their way into new, unfamiliar habitats, can take over native flora or fauna and damage the environment. They have a social and economic impact on human health, food production, fisheries and agriculture: it is estimated that invasive species cost at least 12 billion Euros a year to the EU in measures of damage control. The EU has therefore recently put forward a European strategy to combat invasive species. The hearing gathered authorities and a broad panel of stakeholders involved in plant health, animal health and environmental matters. It offered a timely source of information on the threat caused by invasive species to plant health, mammals and animal health.

“Viruses are the biggest threat when it comes to animal health, followed by bacteria and parasites. The European Animal Health industry has spearheaded ground-breaking approaches to pool research and innovation across the European Union and ensure we are ready to prevent or, when needed, cure those new diseases”, said Declan O’Brien.

The ETPGAH (European Technology Platform for Global Animal health) and DISCONTOOLS (DISease CONtrol TOOLS) allow the industry, researchers and funders to agree on the most important animal diseases, identify research gaps and direct research towards filling those gaps. More information can be found on and

The European Commission is addressing invasive species on various fronts. Pia Bucella directs the unit for nature, biodiversity and land use at Directorate-General Environment (ENVI). Directorate-General Health and Consumers (SANCO) is developing a new common plant health regime and foresees a new plant health law by 2012. “The reasons for developing a new plant health law is to contribute to sustainable production through plant health protection, ensure competitiveness of the agriculture complex, protecting public and private green, forests and the landscape and also to ensure food security”, explained Harry Arijs, Deputy Head of Sector Harmful organisms at SANCO.

“Foot and Mouth Disease is a constant threat and resulted in the slaughter of 6.5 million animals in the UK in 2001. Bluetongue has now become established across much of the EU. Most importantly, we need to be prepared for diseases such as African Horse Sickness, African Swine Fever and Rift Valley Fever by developing vaccines in advance of the possible arrival of these devastating diseases” stated Declan O’ Brien. IFAH-Europe welcomes the fact that the European Commission is updating its vaccine and antigen banks in light of the most imminent threats as a means of stamping out invasive diseases as they arrive.

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Notes for editors

IFAH-Europe is the representative body of manufacturers of veterinary medicines, vaccines and other animal health products in Europe.  It promotes a single market in veterinary medicines across the EU ensuring the availability of medicines to protect the health and welfare of animals. For further information on IFAH-Europe, please visit

European Technology Platform for Global Animal Health (ETPGAH)


The European Parliament Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development (EP/ ICCBSD) is the continuation of the Intergroup on sustainable development established in 1994. Recognizing that the well-being of humankind is severely affected by climate change and the loss of global biodiversity, the Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development aims to constitute a cross-sectoral political platform to lead the integration of these issues in the legislative activity of the European Parliament.

DG SANCO review of the Common Plan Health regime (CPHR)

DG ENVI fact sheet on invasive alien species (IAS)



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