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Government Vets

Zoonoses: Why I Get Up in the Morning

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Disease outbreak, Government Veterinary Services, Policy Work

Carmen standing in a field with a group of officials

Hi! My name is Carmen Marco and I work as a Veterinary Advisor for the Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA).  My job involves working with others to ensure prevention of zoonoses (diseases which pass from animals to people and vice versa) and interventions to mitigate or eradicate them when there are outbreaks.

Zoonoses is the reason why I am a vet, and why I am in my current job.  I have always loved animals; since I was a toddler I would run to pet a dog or a cat. Growing older, I thoroughly enjoyed turning a semi-feral cat into a semi-domesticated one, which became later my pet.  She would eat out of my hand, would sit on my lap, purring, and surprised me by having her kittens in the nooks and crannies of the log store.

So it was not surprising when I chose to be a vet as a career.  It was not until the third year that we studied pathology and diseases.  This is when the concept of zoonoses was introduced, and I found it really interesting.  On the fourth year we covered epidemiology - and that is when all clicked together for me.  Disease presence depended on the interaction of several factors, not just the presence or absence of a pathogen.  In relation to zoonoses, this meant that preventative actions could be put in place to protect people every time they ate food of animal origin, or interacted with their pets or livestock.  I had found my passion:  how to influence the interactions between people and animals to prevent and control zoonoses.

I have always worked as a Government Vet. Through different roles, I found I could realise my purpose – a safer world for people and animals. As a Veterinary Officer, I was part of the Avian Influenza and the Foot and Mouth Disease Local Control Centres in 2007. I implemented the protocols for sampling and testing poultry flocks, to ensure chicken meat and eggs were safe to eat.

At present, I work with other teams in government and industry with a focus on prevention and control of zoonoses.  My first months as a Veterinary Advisor were spent controlling and eradicating a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak which extended to 65 farms!

Carmen presenting in front of a group at a training event

In the past year I provided training to local authorities on pet food, and participated in the planning and completion of the Public Health England Zoonoses training.  I also took part in the Chinese Scrapie Study tour to the UK, where I accompanied the Chinese authorities to a sheep farm to demonstrate the UK sheep industry practices; and completed a presentation about UK feed controls.  This supported negotiations to open the Chinese market to UK lamb, with the added economic benefit to the UK.

I sit in the Human and Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance (HAIRS) group.  Our aim is to develop Risk Assessments for diseases that may be present in the UK in the near future, and provide recommendations accordingly.  We also monitor global health reports and alerts to spot any emerging diseases that may be of interest.

Carmen and her dog

As you can see, I have always worked as a Government Vet. I found that there are many advantages to my career choice.  One of them is the work-life balance.  I have been able to take days off when my daughter was sick and could not go to nursery or school; or work from home on restricted hours.  Another one is development: there are always opportunities for progression, specialisation, or lateral moves onto a non-veterinary role.  I worked as a line manager for 7 years.  Flexibility is another advantage: I can choose the working pattern that suits me better in agreement with my line manager:  part time, compressed hours, job-share…   I can also decide when to start and finish work every day subject to core hours.

And last, but not least, as far as zoonoses are concerned, the variety of subjects is key for me – from Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) to tick borne diseases…  it’s never a boring day in the office!

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  1. Comment by Kate Sharpe posted on

    Great blog-thanks Carmen.
    It sums up everything I also found in all aspects of being a government vet-being able to make a larger difference than I could in private practice plus the added flexibility to improve the work-life balance.

  2. Comment by Tony Potter posted on

    A great insight into what makes you tick and what makes you good at what you do.

  3. Comment by udayavani posted on

    nice article