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AGA NEWS

New training tools to improve the investigation and management of foot-and-mouth disease

Transboundary animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) impact the livelihoods across South Asia, and the region’s veterinary services are critical in their management and control. How can we best update veterinarians across such a broad region with the latest knowledge and techniques to enable them to better control disease outbreaks? What can professionals working in different countries on the same disease learn from each other?

To begin to answer these questions, a pilot online FMD Investigation Training Course was recently implemented in the region. This was launched jointly by FAO’s Regional Support Unit of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (RSU-SAARC) and European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD). Altogether, 181 trainees who came from local, regional and central level veterinary services of the eight SAARC Member  States (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) were nominated for the course. The pilot course aimed to improve our understanding of how e-learning can be used for training and networking in the SAARC region, and to identify important priorities for future training for the region’s veterinary services.

 

The online course included six interactive course modules with supplementary videos, images and self-test questions. Subjects covered ranged from clinical diagnosis, lesion ageing and taking correct laboratory samples to outbreak investigation and epidemiology.

 

The course included important control measures, including a focus on biosecurity and improved understanding of FMD vaccines and their applications. This was a four –week-long course expected to be completed in 12 hours in total.

 

The online course focused on interactivity and participatory peer-to-peer training with two live webinars to start and finish the course. Participants were tutored by global and regional FMD experts through an online discussion forum and this proved to be a highlight of the course. Discussion was very lively, with many participants sharing practical experiences and local challenges. Topics ranging from ways to reduce mortality amongst adult animals to the pattern of FMD virus distribution in South Asia were thoroughly discussed by the participants.

Interesting questions were also raised; what are the challenges of using ring vaccination to control FMD outbreaks? Why does the virus replicated in the heart muscle of neonatal animals? or are carrier animals are important in the epidemiology of the disease?.

 

100% of those who took part in the post-course survey rated the course either as “very good” or as “good” agreeing that the course contents and materials were very relevant to their needs. In some areas internet connectivity was a challenge and approximately 50% of those who started the course successfully gained their certificate. The feedback from the course participants, alongside those from the veterinary services nominating participants are now being used to plan further online training initiatives in the SAARC region.

 

While there are some challenges to overcome, this new method of training offers South Asian countries an exciting and cost effective way of connecting,  networking and sharing information between central veterinary services and field staff “on the ground”. It also presents a new way for colleagues in different countries to share knowledge with each other.

 

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