Alicorns, Gryphons, One Health, Zoonosis and other fantastical stuff


As is common in my house (and likely the home of other parents…who are being honest), my kids recently schooled me on the appropriate word used to refer to a winged horse with a horn. For the uneducated (by the 10 and under crowd), the proper word, and apparently that used by ‘seriously everyone, Mom’, is an alicorn .

This newfound wisdom, together with a lengthy (and heated) follow-up debate on how to correctly spell Gryphon , got me thinking about a recent publication hatched from a survey of veterinary students, “Beliefs, Attitudes and Self-Efficacy Regarding One Health and Zoonosis Management”.


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The study was performed in the land of fantastical critters, Australia, with 175 senior year veterinary students (from 5 veterinary colleges) responding to a One Health and Zoonoses questionnaire.  Outlined objectives (key questions) were to, ‘explore the beliefs and attitudes of the students regarding One Health’, and ‘evaluate the students’ confidence in advising the general public on preventive health with respect to zoonotic disease’.

The study reported that the majority of participating veterinary students believed; 1) in the importance of One Health (97%), 2) that it was their duty to promote One Health (96%) and, 3) that vets were better equipped to do so than physicians (81%). Additionally, the students unanimously reported a willingness to collaborate and assist physicians in zoonotic disease concerns-cases. All good and unsurprising stuff.

Now the not-so-good news. Unfortunately, only 36% of the students felt like they had a framework to promote One Health and their reported confidence in diagnosing zoonoses was low, with only 22% reporting confidence in diagnosing zoonoses in wildlife, 39% in companion animals, and 36% in production animals.  

To be fair, these were 4th year students, some of whom may have been uncertain of their day 1 abilities (e.g., following graduation), as such it might have been useful to see how this compared to their confidence in non-zoonotic diseases. On the other hand, there appears to be a definite gap in what this group of students believed vs. their feeling on their abilities and skill set.

It’s difficult (and potentially crushing) to feel responsible for something (in this case human and animal health), yet poorly equipped to adequately provide resources, i.e. lacking a framework or adequate training. So, if we think that the results of this study may reflect the belief’s, attitudes and self-efficacy of other veterinary students, besides those surveyed in Australia, how do we move forward?  Certainly, additional training/resources in this field may be needed for our students (and practicing veterinarians?), in order to increase awareness and education.

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One thing that might help on the companion animal front could be to enlist (charm? bully?) a bunch of passionate veterinarians from all avenues of the profession (and all over the world) to write an infectious disease book targeted for veterinary students and general practitioners in order to assist with recognition of clinical signs, diagnosis and prevention.

We all do what we can (or should try?), and while the book isn’t perfect, and I suspect others (besides my kids) will tell me that a lot of it is wrong or can be improved…it’s a start to raising awareness, accessibility and hopefully drawing topics like infectious disease, zoonosis and One Health out of the poorly defined (murky? Phantasmagoric?) and into the veterinary day-to-day.