FAO assists Ukraine with avian influenza simulation exercise
17 august 2010 - Ukraine, the second largest country in Eastern Europe, is bordered by the Russian Federation to the east; Belarus to the north; Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to the west; Romania and Moldova to the southwest; and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south. It is here, on the diverse agro-ecosystems that prop up along these southern land-water interfaces that many domestic poultry and wild birds intermingle freely, thereby increasing the probability of disease transmission between avian species, especially the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Cognizant of this fact, the international agencies responsible for animal and public health have stressed the importance of disease surveillance in poultry and wild birds, along with timely and appropriate building of capacities in relation to pandemic preparedness and animal health emergency responses.
Against this background, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the STOP AI Project, and with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), organised in the city of Kiev on 13–15 April 2010 an event titled: Ukrainian Simulation Exercise on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Human and Animal Populations.
Participation to this exercise consisted of national officials from the State Committee of the Veterinary Medicine of Ukraine; Head of Departments of Veterinary Medicine in various regions; Ministry of Emergencies and Affairs of Population Protection from the Consequences of the Chernobyl Catastrophe (MES); Ministry of Health Protection (MHP); Ukraine Centre for Influenza and other Acute Respiratory Infections at the Ministry of Health (MoH); Regional State Laboratory of Veterinary Medicine of Crimea; Republican and Regional Sanitary and Epidemiological Station at the MoH; and representatives from Health, Medical and Biological Protection Sectors of MES at regional levels. International officers from USAID and FAO were also present. A total of 40 participants attended this event that consisted of a combined tabletop and field simulation exercise.
The report of the simulation exercise concluded that the event proved extremely useful and an excellent opportunity for participants –that would be involved in the control of an outbreak of HPAI in animals and/or humans– to interact. In addition, the strengths and weaknesses of the available contingency plans were tested and the participants were able to practice some of their response activities. Furthermore, the event provided the opportunity to discuss and exchange experiences and encouraged elucidation on how to improve HPAI management.
Ukraine has prepared a legal framework (e.g. legislatives and orders) for the veterinary and public health sectors as well as for the MES to act upon if an HPAI suspicion or outbreak occurs. Most of the measures are in accordance with European Union regulations. However, it was pointedly noted that the current legislatives and orders need to be updated, revised and complemented with standard operating procedures for field practitioners and officials. Additionally, the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved in implementing control measures (e.g. Ministry of Agriculture, MES, and MoH) should be clearer and better defined.
Continued training programs and communication and coordination meetings are warranted, as well as a surveillance program that include wild bird disease specialists. Finally, participants expressed their satisfaction in the combination of FAO’s “macro-level” tabletop simulation followed by STOP AI “micro-level” farm exercise. A list of practical recommendations drafted by FAO and STOP AI contribute to strengthen the national emergency preparedness and response capacities of Ukraine, and the many lessons identified during this workshop could be applied to other emergencies and diseases as needed.