Veterinarians play a big role in public health since most human diseases are transmitted through foods of animal origin e.g meat, milk, eggs among others. A good example is the recent anthrax outbreak in Thika, where a dead animal was slaughtered (according to the meat control act, a dead animal should not be slaughtered) without consent of the veterinarian and this consequently leads to contamination of the environment and the meat handlers acquiring the cutaneous (skin) form of the disease.
Antimicrobial resistance which is of great public health importance also relies on the veterinarian to control chemical residues in food, especially antibiotics. I cannot therefore overemphasize the role of the veterinarian in public health.
Every veterinary medical student at the University of Nairobi getting into their fourth year always looks forward to these Public Health lectures. This is because the lectures are done out of the classroom, are usually practical and the students get a chance to visit various slaughter houses in Nairobi and it’s environs. The main aim of these lectures is to equip the students with practical skills and experience in the field of veterinary public health.
The minimum requirements for the students in terms of protective clothing is a white labcoat, white gumboots a cap for the ladies and men with long hair and also a helmet. I remember one of my classmates having to shave his beard inorder to be allowed to visit some of the factories! The whole aim of having a cap or being clean shaven is to reduce the incidence of contamination.
Some of the areas we visited include:
- Dagoretti slaughter house.
- Kenya Meat Commission (KMC)
- Farmers Choice
- Kenya Cooperative Creamaries (KCC)
- Nairobi city water and sewerage company.
And among the above factories I was really impressed by Farmers Choice and Kenchic. Their level of hygiene was impeccable to say the least. And in all these factories a licensed veterinarian was responsible for inspection of the meat. Any carcass that was not fit for human consumption was condemned.
In the wake of zoonotic disease outbreaks, it is important to have veterinarians actively monitoring and surveilling possible sources of infection. Kenyans might not know this, but kenyan veterinarians are always on their toes.