Emergency Preparedness and Response in Animal Health
Over the past year, the Food Safety Network has partnered with Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services to develop an online learning module covering topics related to animal health and emergency preparedness and response. To commemorate this work, the Food Safety Network is releasing a series of blogs focused on select topics discussed within this online learning module. This blog is the final in a six-part series and focuses on the topic of Emergency Preparedness and Response in Animal Health.
The development and implementation of a modern animal disease emergency preparedness and response plan allows countries to shift from reactive to proactive in protecting their domestic herds and flocks, national food supply, public health and economic stability. Leveraging science-based, transparent processes benefit not only individual countries, but the global community by joining as partners in world-wide efforts to control and eradicate foreign animal diseases.
Pre-outbreak planning for an animal disease emergency provides officials to preapprove plans — allowing for more rapid decision-making, quicker access to operational funds and easier access to assistance from other governmental agencies at the onset of disease detection. Planning establishes important networking relationships with participating agencies that, in turn, improves lines of communication and implementation of outbreak response actions.
The planning process should include input from farming communities and representatives from agriculture industry stakeholder groups. Cooperation from producers is critical to the success of controlling the spread of disease. Involving industry groups in the planning process and gaining their support increases the likelihood of cooperation from the producers themselves.
Although a one-size-fits-all emergency preparedness and response plan might be convenient, it would not be ideal for several reasons. Disease affects countries differently, and a particular disease’s impact could diverge from one locale to another depending on the scale and intensity of production. The prominence of commercial (domestic and international) markets may also play an important role in a disease’s effects.
What is a National Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan?
A National Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan for animal disease emergencies should include three documents.
- An Emergency Preparedness Plan delineates the actions a government needs to take to prepare for a disease outbreak. It covers planning for the prevention and detection of a high-risk disease threat, the first two phases of the emergency management planning cycle.
Employing strategies to prevent the introduction of disease into the country is integral to preparedness. Countries should ensure sufficient resources are provided to programs that focus on disease prevention and that effective policies are in place to support their efforts. Although disease prevention is the goal, a comprehensive surveillance system with mechanisms in place to rapidly detect is essential, as high-threat diseases can have a significant impact on the outcome of the emergency response and socioeconomic consequences. Two factors that greatly influence the eventual size of an outbreak are the length of time between disease entry and its detection, and the time between the initial report of detection and implementation of effective control measures.
When developing a preparedness plan, the following should be considered:
- Coordinated National Approach: The central government has the lead role in planning and policy development for animal disease emergencies in most countries. However, successful response efforts will require involvement down to the local level. For response efforts to be well coordinated, the national animal health service will need to include senior officials of state or regional governments in planning to ensure their understanding and approval.
- Risk Analysis: Risk analyses should be conducted in the early stages of the planning process to assist with decision-making. The risk analysis process should be repeated and updated regularly to ensure the emergency preparedness and response plan remains relevant.
- Resource Needs: The planning process should include identifying the resources that will be needed during an emergency response.
- Financial Planning: The financial plan should consider the costs of risk analyses and surveillance and the contingency funds to cover costs associated with an emergency response. Development of a compensation policy (indemnity) and its legal framework is central to control measures that require destruction of animals or property.
- Training and Exercises: Training and exercises complement the planning process and ensure not only that all personnel are properly trained for their positions, but also validate the components of the emergency response plans to show they are practical and implementable.
- A Contingency Plan outlines the actions when the disease is detected and the response activities begin, including the standard operating procedures (SOP) for staff to implement the process.
The technical SOP covers the response activities common to any number of high-threat diseases. Disease-specific contingency plans include the additional strategies, actions and policies necessary to contain and eliminate a specific disease and is designed to supplement the technical SOP. The Contingency Plan also contains instructions for resource management during the disease response, as well as financial procedures and controls. The plan should be refined, as necessary, through routine exercises and personnel should be trained in their individual roles and responsibilities.
The control of a high-threat disease can be challenging to achieve because no single action by itself will do the job. Multiple actions will need to be taken simultaneously and often must be coordinated with each other for a successful outcome. This requires a substantial amount of efficient, logistical support. The challenges of an emergency disease response require a straightforward way of thinking about disease control. This can be done by keeping the three pillars of infectious disease control in mind:
- Find the infection fast
- Eliminate the infection quickly
- Stop the infection from spreading
If one pillar is not effectively supporting the emergency response, the entire response effort will collapse. All disease management activities should be directed toward the three objectives the pillars represent. It requires a steady flow of accurate information for emergency management staff to continually assess how well each of the objectives are being met and to quickly adjust response actions accordingly.
- The Recovery Plan includes the verification process to prove freedom from the disease and actions necessary to begin restoring lost export markets.
Neighboring countries and the rest of the international community will want objective proof that a country has regained freedom from the disease, which will require a series of verification steps. This verification process provides the foundation for restoring export markets for livestock and animal products that were lost during the disease outbreak. The ability to verify freedom from a particular disease also enables countries to negotiate new trade opportunities to gain additional export markets. The verification process often involves the following:
- Demonstration of an effective veterinary infrastructure and comprehensive disease surveillance program
- Statistically based serological testing
- Active clinical surveillance
The World Organisation for Animal Health — Terrestrial Animal Health Codes provides specific guidelines on acceptable international disease freedom verification procedures for each disease.
The development and implementation of a modern animal disease emergency preparedness and response plan allows countries to shift from reactive to proactive in protecting their national food supply, public health and economic stability. Leveraging these science-based, transparent processes will benefit not only countries, but the international community in world-wide animal disease control. Time is a critical element in disease outbreak. Having a well-communicated, organized plan that is easy to follow as soon as notice is given will support efforts to undertake a quick response.
Want to learn more about the concept of animal health? Check out our free, self-paced, online Animal Health Learning Module, which explores the evolution of the U.S. surveillance process, the value of a modern surveillance system and emergency response process, international trade and animal health, import risk analysis, risk management and risk communication, emergency preparedness and response, and concludes with a case study that allows learners to walk through a fictional country’s response to an African Swine Fever outbreak. Visit http://www.spscourses.com today to sign up for a free account and access this module and so much more!