Countries need to have in place well-documented contingency action plans for specific, high-priority emergency diseases, together with a series of generic plans for activities or programmes common to the various specific disease contingency plans (e.g. setting up national and local animal disease control centres). They also need to have resource and financial plans and proper legislative backing for all actions. These contingency plans need to be considered and agreed upon in advance by all major stakeholders, including the political and bureaucratic arms of government and the private sector, particularly livestock farmer organizations. The contingency plans should be refined through simulation exercises and personnel should be trained in their individual roles and responsibilities.
Technical contingency plans should consist of four sets of complementary documents:
These plans should be written in straight-forward language that can be understood and followed by all those who have to implement them. There is no need to replicate the last three sets of documents in the specific disease contingency plans. There should, however, be cross-referencing.
AUSVETPLAN (the Australian contingency plan) provides an example of how to write such contingency plans. AUSVETPLAN can be found at www.brs.gov.au./aphb/aha/ausvet.htm
These should be prepared for each of the diseases that have been identified as being of high risk (see Chapter 3). They should not be very long, but should be clear, authoritative documents that provide sufficient information to allow authorities to make informed decisions on what policies and procedures should be used to control and eradicate an outbreak of that disease, and which are enforceable in law.
The format and contents of the disease contingency plans should be tailored to meet the requirements and circumstances of individual countries. However, the following model format, which is based on AUSVETPLAN with some modifications, may serve as a guide.
Nature of the disease
Risk assessment (including potential consequences)
Diagnosis and surveillance
Principles of control and eradication
Policy and rationale
Standard operating procedures
These are detailed sets of instructions for key programmes and activities that tend to be generic rather than disease specific. They should be cross-referenced to the specific disease contingency plans.
Standard operating procedures may be prepared for:
These are codes of zoosanitary practice and instructions for action in what could be deemed as risk enterprises in a disease emergency. They should cover acceptable and unacceptable zoosanitary practices when these enterprises find themselves located in infected areas, disease control zones, or disease-free areas.
They may be prepared for:
Job description cards
This is the final level of technical contingency plans. Job description cards are simple, itemized lists of roles, duties and responsibilities which are distributed to all personnel who are likely to be involved in the response to an animal disease emergency, and should be distributed well in advance of a disease emergency.
Support plans are for the provision of the vital backing that will make the implementation of the disease contingency action plans possible. They may be specific for each disease contingency plan but tend to be more generic in nature.
Experience has shown that delay in obtaining finances is one of the major constraints to the rapid response to emergency disease outbreaks. The application of even modest funds immediately will certainly save major expenditure later. Forward financial planning is therefore an essential component of preparedness.
Financial plans need to be developed which provide for the immediate provision of contingency funds to respond to disease emergencies. These are for the necessary funds required over and above normal operating costs for government veterinary services. The plans should be approved by all arms of government, including economic planning authorities and the department of finance.
The funds may cover the cost of the whole eradication campaign but more usually will cover the initial phases of the campaign, pending a review of the outbreak and the control programme and of the funds required to finalize eradication.
The conditions under which funds may be released should be specified in advance. Normally they would be provided to the CVO when he or she advises that:
The funds may be held as special funds which are sequestered for the purpose or there may be drawing rights provided up to a predetermined realistic amount against a specific government account.
In some countries it may be desirable for funds to be provided from both the government and private sector for emergency programmes against some diseases. This would be agreed upon after a review of the nature and proportion of public and private benefits that will be derived from the elimination of the disease. If appropriate, a funding formula may be agreed upon which covers payment of a fixed percentage of the cost of the total campaign by each sector or whereby each sector pays for specific components in the campaign. If the private sector is to contribute, it needs to be determined who in that sector benefits (and therefore should share the cost). This may include processing industries and traders as well as farmer organizations. It also needs to be predetermined how the private sector funds will be raised. This could be done by livestock industry levies (say on livestock transactions or slaughterings) which are held in quarantined funds or by industrywide insurance. Voluntary individual insurance policies are satisfactory for insuring against the consequential losses from a disease or disease control actions but are unsatisfactory for raising funds for the campaign itself.
In many cases the funding of the whole emergency disease eradication campaign may be beyond the resources of the country. If this is the case, forward planning should be carried out to identify potential international donor sources for such a campaign. This could include emergency support from FAO or appropriate international agencies. The procedures for applying for funding and requirements for preparing and submitting an application should be predetermined.
The financial plan should also include the provisions for compensation to owners for any livestock or property destroyed as part of the disease eradication campaign. The payment of inadequate compensation is not only inherently unfair, but is also counterproductive to the campaign. Inadequate compensation fosters resentment and lack of cooperation and encourages farmers to hide the presence of the disease. Compensation should be based on the fair market “farm-gate” value of the animals at the time of slaughter (assuming a value that the animal would have had as a healthy one). The same principle should be applied to products and property. The valuation should be carried out by an independent, professional valuer. If individual valuations are not practical, then generic valuations for different classes of livestock may be acceptable. Compensation for consequential, rather than direct, losses are usually difficult to administer and are inappropriate.
The first step in preparing a resource plan is to make a resource inventory, listing all the resources that will be needed to respond to a moderatesized outbreak of each of the high-priority emergency diseases. This includes personnel, equipment and other physical resources. The following resource lists required for different operations should be regarded as indicative rather than exhaustive:
Next, a list of existing resources is prepared, including their specifications, quantities and locations. A register should be maintained of specialized staff, together with their qualifications and expertise/experience with key emergency diseases. These resource lists and staff registers should be maintained at the national disease control centre and, where appropriate, at regional offices.
Comparison of the inventory lists of needed and available resources will inevitably highlight many deficiencies. The resource plan should identify how these deficiencies will be rectified in an emergency.
There are several options for accessing the necessary extra resources:
Supply of vaccines and diagnostic reagents presents special problems, as international sources are limited for a number of diseases. Sources of high-quality products are even more limited. These sources, and methods of ordering, should be identified in advance. Even then, manufacturers and suppliers may not carry adequate stock reserves to be able to fill an emergency order. Consideration could thus be given to coming to some contractual arrangement with manufacturers for guaranteed supplies in an emergency. For vaccines there may also be the opportunity to join a suitable international vaccine bank.
The resource plan and associated inventory lists need to be regularly updated.
Acts of parliament or government regulations that provide the legislative framework and powers to carry out all necessary disease control actions need to be put in place in advance as part of preparedness planning. This may include legislation to:
For countries that operate under a federal system of government, there should be a harmonization and consistency of legislation for animal disease emergencies throughout the country. The same should apply between countries within regions for which there is unrestricted exchange of livestock and animal products under free-trade pacts, e.g. the European Union and the MERCOSUR countries in South America.
Simulation exercises are extremely useful for testing and refining contingency plans in advance of any disease emergency. They are also a valuable means of building teams for emergency disease responses and for training individual staff.
Disease outbreak scenarios that are as realistic as possible should be devised for the exercises, using real data where possible (e.g. for livestock locations, populations and trading routes). The scenario may cover one or more time phases during the outbreak with a possible range of outcomes. However, neither the scenario nor the exercise should be overly complicated or long. It is best to test just one system at a time (e.g. operation of a local disease control centre). Simulation exercises may be carried out purely as a paper exercise or through mock activities - or a combination of both approaches. At the completion of each simulation exercise there should be a post-mortem of the results. This review should identify areas where plans need to be modified and further training is needed.
A full-scale disease outbreak simulation exercise should only be attempted after the individual components of the disease control response have been tested and proved. Earlier exercises of this nature may be counterproductive.
All staff should be thoroughly trained in their roles, duties and responsibilities in a disease emergency. Obviously more intensive training will need to be given to those who will be in key positions. It should also be borne in mind that any staff member, from the CVO downwards, may be absent or may need to be relieved during a disease emergency for one reason or another. Back-up staff should therefore be trained for each position.
Contingency plans, once prepared, should not be treated as static documents. They should be regarded as living documents that need to be regularly reviewed and updated as warranted by changing circumstances. This should be the responsibility of the national animal disease emergency planning committee. In reviewing and updating contingency plans, the following factors should be taken into account: