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Preparing for the worst – UN FAO team supports avian influenza outbreak simulation exercises in Lao PDR

03 April 2017 - A series of successful avian influenza outbreak simulation exercises have been organized in the area around Luang Prabang to test the country’s Joint Response Plan, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization announced today.

The exercises, held from 14-16 March, allowed evaluation of the public and animal health sectors’ readiness for a joint outbreak response should a future avian influenza virus be confirmed within the country. The last avian influenza (H5N1) outbreak in Lao PDR was reported last October.

The event specifically tests the country’s Joint Response Plan on Avian Influenza, which was first tested in 2014 and revised in 2016. The three-day event combined tabletop and field exercise simulations. 

Participants reacted to specific scenarios ranging from a suspected avian influenza outbreak in a farm to a suspected human case in a hospital. The teams worked on implementing the preparedness and contingency plan in whole and in part. 

A total of 95 participants from various government ministries tested the measures called for in the country’s national preparedness and contingency plan for avian influenza. The simulation exercises were informed by lessons learnt after previous joint responses to avian influenza outbreaks in October. The exercises addressed disease management, surveillance, risk communication, coordination and collaboration, with the aim to identify practical and feasible ways to implement the measures called for in the plan. 

The simulation exercises were jointly organized by the Department of Livestock and Fishery, of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Department of Communicable Disease Control of the Ministry of Health, FAO and WHO. Various national and international partner agencies participated, with financial support provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 

The FAO Representative in Lao PDR, Stephen Rudgard, said he was confident that the exercises will strengthen the country’s emergency response capability. “The critical review of Lao PDR’s national contingency plan on avian influenza is an important exercise to ensure that it is applicable and that officials can implement it,” Rudgard said.


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© FAO/Domingo Caro


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