A close working relationship needs to be developed between the Ministries of Agriculture and Health (or their equivalent) so that an effective response can be mounted against RVF and other serious livestock diseases that have a significant public health component (e.g. rabies and Japanese encephalitis).
Agreement should be reached in advance on a joint framework for preparing RVF contingency plans and other preparedness programmes that are consistent with each other and complementary. Agreement should also be reached on the most efficient mechanisms and division of responsibilities for coordinating emergency responses and for implementing disease control and eradication programmes. Opportunities for sharing resources between the two ministries, where appropriate, should also be explored, so as to avoid unnecessary duplication.
Areas in which collaboration and sharing of resources should be developed include:
The country CVO (or equivalent, such as the Director of Veterinary Services) should have overall technical responsibility for preparedness for and management of animal disease emergencies including RVF. The appropriate government minister would of course be ultimately responsible.
In recent years the national veterinary services of many countries have been restructured and rationalized. This has included, inter alia, regionalization and devolution of veterinary services; privatization of veterinary services and/or downgrading of government services; separation of policy functions from operational functions; and separation of administrative responsibilities of veterinary laboratories and veterinary field services.
These new structures have evolved to meet the demands of delivering routine animal health services better. However, they are often not well suited to managing a major animal health emergency, such as an RVF epidemic. In such an emergency there is a need to make decisions rapidly based on analysis of the best information that can be made available from all sources; have the capacity to convert those decisions into clear orders that can be conveyed down the chain to those who are charged with the responsibility of carrying them out; and to know that orders have been carried out and with what results. Therefore, there must be efficient mechanisms in place for transmission of information and instructions from the national veterinary services headquarters right down to the frontline of the disease control campaign in the field and laboratory; and for feedback of information to headquarters.
For these things to happen quickly and efficiently in an emergency, the national veterinary services must be placed in a command structure or line management system at least for the duration of the emergency response to an RVF outbreak.
While responsibility for implementation of various activities may be delegated to the private sector and/or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the national veterinary services must remain accountable for the overall programme, and thus should ensure that adequate quality assurance procedures are applied for all implementing agencies.
There should be forward planning so that the most appropriate structures and lines of responsibilities can be rapidly and seamlessly put in place when an RVF emergency arises. Planning may include organizing one or more of the following well in advance of any emergency:
In many countries the private sector is extremely small, or non-existent, and it may be necessary to rely upon non-veterinary assistance for disease control. There should therefore be a mechanism to mobilize resources available in other related sectors, e.g. agricultural extension, with appropriate training. It is vital to identify all the potential role-players in the control of animal diseases and ensure that they are prepared to act immediately in the event of an epizootic.
Countries may find it very useful to establish a CCEAD that can be convened as soon as there is an RVF or other animal disease emergency, and can meet regularly during the course of the emergency response. This would be principally a technical committee whose role would be to review epidemiological and other disease control information; recommend the activation of agreed contingency plans; maintain oversight of the campaign; and advise the CVO and the appropriate minister on the future planning of the campaign and on implementation of the plans.
A suggested composition of the CCEAD might be:
If the command structure recommended in the section on Responsibilities and command structures (see p. 48) cannot be implemented for one reason or another, it becomes more essential to establish a CCEAD so there can be a consensus approach to the conduct of the RVF campaign.
Consideration should be given to having a joint CCEAD with public health authorities. If this is not practicable, there should at least be a technical liaison officer from the Ministry of Health present at CCEAD meetings.
Countries should establish a permanent National Animal Disease Control Centre. In the event of an outbreak of RVF or another emergency animal disease, the centre would be responsible to the CVO for coordinating all emergency disease control measures in the country. The centre should preferably be situated within the National Veterinary Services headquarters and the National Epidemiology Unit should be either attached to the centre or work in close collaboration with it. The CVO may delegate day to day responsibilities for implementing agreed policy to the head of the centre, who would normally be a senior government veterinarian. The responsibilities of the centre in the emergency response would include:
The National Animal Disease Control Centre should be fully equipped with a range of maps covering all parts of the country (preferably at 1:50 000), and with suitable communication equipment for liaison with regional veterinary services or specially designated Local Animal Disease Control Centres, veterinary laboratories, etc. by telephone, radio, e-mail and fax as appropriate. The centre should also be linked with the Emergency Disease Information System.
During the RVF emergency, district offices of the veterinary services closest to the outbreaks or, if there are none, district offices of the agricultural extension services, should act as Local Animal Disease Control Centres. Ideally teams should be able to travel to and from any site necessary for surveillance or any other disease control activities in one day. Otherwise, possible locations for temporary local disease control centres (e.g. local government offices) should be identified and negotiated for in advance.
The regional and district veterinary officers should be in charge of disease control operations in their area, and have the right to inspect livestock whether they are on farms, in extensive grazing or nomadic situations. The officers should have the authority and the human resources to be able to collect samples for diagnosis and surveillance, and to take any measures deemed necessary to control the disease. These measures may include vaccination of susceptible livestock, restriction of animal movements and insect vector abatement programmes.
Local Animal Disease Control Centres should be provided with the materials for collection, storage over short periods (a refrigerator) and transmission of samples; vaccine cold storage and vaccination equipment; insecticide stores and spraying equipment; vehicles and fuel; and the means to contact the CVO as required. Provided the necessary political structures exist, they should be able to enlist the cooperation of other services, e.g. the police, agricultural extension officers and the media. They should be provided with the materials needed to carry out a public information campaign and more intensive farmer training and information. Most important, they should at all times be in possession of accurate information relating to the status of the disease throughout the country and on likely risk areas.