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Responsibilities and command structures

The country CVO (or equivalent, such as the Director of Veterinary Services [DVS]) should have overall technical responsibility for preparedness for and management of FMD emergencies. The appropriate government minister would of course be ultimately responsible.

In recent years the national veterinary services of many countries have been restructured and reduced. 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 FMD eradication campaign. In an emergency there is a need to make decisions rapidly, based on analysis of the best information available from all sources. It is also essential that there is the capacity to convert those decisions into clear orders so that when they are conveyed down the chain, there is confidence and accountability that they have been carried out. 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 eradication campaign in the field and laboratory; and for feedback of information to headquarters.

It is clear that 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 FMD outbreak.

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 FMD 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 nonexistent, 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 control of animal diseases and ensure that they are prepared to act immediately in the event of an epizootic.

Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases (CCEAD)

Countries may find it very useful to establish a CCEAD, which can be convened as soon as there is an FMD 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:

The chairperson should seek input from members of the CCEAD in the spirit of a "consensus approach" to the emergency, but exhaustive deliberations should not be allowed and the CVO must select from the options presented.

National Animal Disease Control Centre

Countries should establish a permanent National Animal Disease Control Centre. In the event of an outbreak of FMD 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 Service 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.

Local Animal Disease Control Centres

During the FMD emergency, the district offices of the veterinary services closest to the infected foci or, where there are none, the 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 enter farms, collect samples and take any measures deemed necessary to prevent the movement of livestock, livestock products and any other potentially contaminated materials within and outside the areas under their control. They should be provided with the necessary materials for collection, storage over short periods (a refrigerator) and transmission of samples; protective clothing; stores of disinfectant; a vehicle and fuel; and the means to contact the CVO as required. Provided the necessary political structures exist, officers should be able to enlist the cooperation of other services, e.g. the police, agricultural extension officers and the media, to prevent dissemination of disease. 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 in the country and to slaughter and compensation levels.

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