Preparedness and response to aquatic animal health emergencies in Asia: guidelines

J. Richard Arthur
British Columbia, Canada

F. Christian Baldock
AusVet Animal Health Services
South Brisbane, Australia

Rohana P. Subasinghe
Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service
FAO Fisheries Department
Rome, Italy


Sharon E. McGladdery
Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Rome, © FAO 2005


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ISBN 92-5-105360-X

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Cover photographs:
Aquatic animal diseases. Courtesy of Richard Callinan, Kishio Hatai, Brian Johns, Stuart Millar,
Mongkhon Primpon, Melba Reantaso.

Preparation of this document

The need for technical guidance for developing countries on emergency preparedness and response for serious outbreaks of aquatic animal disease was recognized at the Regional Workshop on Preparedness and Response to Aquatic Animal Health Emergencies, held in Jakarta, Indonesia from 21–23 September 2004.

The workshop was jointly organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service, the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA) and the WorldFish Center, and was hosted by the Government of Indonesia, Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF). The preparation, publishing and distribution of the document were undertaken by FAO.

The workshop was made possible with financial assistance through FAO/TCP/INS/2905 -Health Management in Freshwater Aquaculture and the FishCode Programme of the FAO Fisheries Department.


This document provides guidance to assist developing countries in improving national emergency preparedness in order to maximize the efficiency of response to serious outbreaks of aquatic animal diseases. It is a product of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA)/WorldFish Center (WFC) Regional Workshop on Preparedness and Response to Aquatic Animal Health Emergencies, held in Jakarta, Indonesia from 21–23 September 2004. The workshop, which was hosted by the Government of Indonesia, Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), was attended by 51 participants, including national policy-makers and scientists from the Asian Region, and international experts and resource persons from both the region and elsewhere.

The primary objective of biosecurity arrangements is to prevent the incursion of exotic pathogens and pests. Knowing, however, that the risk of such incursions can never be reduced to zero, such arrangements must also include plans to ensure a rapid, well organized and appropriate response to an emergency disease incident. Infectious disease emergencies may arise within a country through incursions of known exotic diseases (transboundary aquatic animal diseases, TAADs), by a sudden change in the behaviour or distribution of endemic diseases, or via the appearance of previously unrecognized diseases. Effective emergency preparedness through contingency planning, early detection and a rapid response is critical to the successful management of such disease outbreaks. A strong national approach to contingency planning is essential to ensure that the necessary operational capability is in place so that early detection and effective responses are achieved. Recovery from an emergency disease response must be followed by measures to ensure that freedom from the particular disease is again maintained.

Having the capability to deal with emergency diseases involves systematic planning, training, and simulation exercises (field trials or “dummy runs”), as well as having access to an appropriate level of resources, including trained personnel, essential equipment and the necessary financial and legal mechanisms. Although a comprehensive capability in many countries will take a long time to achieve, it is hoped that this manual will assist developing countries in laying foundations within the framework of whatever resources presently exist.

Arthur, J.R.; Baldock, F.C.; Subasinghe, R.P.; McGladdery, S.E.
Preparedness and response to aquatic animal health emergencies in Asia: guidelines.
FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 486. Rome, FAO. 2005. 40p.


The epizootic spread of aquatic animal diseases is becoming more common in many parts of the world, and many countries in the Asia-Pacific Region have, to various degrees, suffered the consequences of serious disease outbreaks. Examples include the devastating impacts of epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS) in freshwater fish during the 1980s and the 1990s, viral encephalopathy and retinopathy (VER) in marine fish since the 1990s, white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) in penaeid shrimp from the early 1990s, and the emerging Taura syndrome virus (TSV) in Penaeus vannamei. Since 2002, Indonesia has faced a serious epizootic of koi herpesvirus (KHV) that is causing large-scale mortalities with significant economic losses among cultured common and koi carp (Cyprinus carpio) populations. More recently, during the last quarter of 2003, an outbreak of KHV also occurred in common and koi carp in Japan. New transboundary aquatic animal diseases (TAADs) continue to appear, causing losses in aquaculture and capture fisheries - whitetail disease in giant river prawn the People’s Republic of China and India, Akoya oyster disease in pearl oysters in Japan and abalone mortalities in China are examples.

The above examples demonstrate the vulnerability of aquaculture and wild resource production to wide-scale infectious disease emergencies and the significant impacts that new diseases can have on local economies. Unless appropriate health management and biosecurity measures are effectively implemented and continuously maintained, the risk of major disease incursions and newly emerging diseases will continue to threaten sustainable productivity in the aquaculture sector. Past experiences in dealing with disease epizootics provide useful lessons towards better preparedness for and improved responses to similar events when they occur in the future.

Effective prevention and control measures complemented by improved extension services, educational programmes and capacity building for farmers and other seafood producers are essential to reduce the risk of transboundary epizootics. A strong national approach along with a well-planned regional strategy is required to ensure that the operational capability is in place and prepared to respond effectively to disease emergencies. Equally important is a clear understanding by both government and the private sector of the benefits to be gained from investing and participating in emergency response systems for aquatic animal diseases commensurate with those in place for terrestrial animal and human disease emergencies.

The capacity for early detection and effective response to disease emergencies is inadequate in many countries. This is due to several factors, such as limited diagnostic capacities, lack of information, insufficient human resources and infrastructure, and lack of financial resources. Limited understanding of the gravity of the problem often results in failure to provide priority action at the national and regional levels. This urgently needs rectifying to avoid further introduction of exotic pathogens and the spread of emerging diseases. In Asia, KHV is a prime example, requiring immediate attention from relevant international research and development agencies, as well as the private sector. Concerted action is essential for controlling this serious epizootic and to regain both consumer and producer confidence.

In order to review and evaluate the national and regional status of emergency preparedness and response to infectious diseases in aquatic animals, and to find avenues for providing guidance and assistance for national and regional improvements, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in partnership with the Government of Indonesia, the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA) and the WorldFish Center (WFC) organized a workshop entitled “Emergency Preparedness and Response to Aquatic Animal Diseases”. The purpose of the workshop was to review the regional experiences in responding to disease emergencies, including the work accomplished through an FAO Technical Cooperation Programme project in Indonesia providing technical assistance to improve national capacity to effectively respond to the ongoing carp disease losses (see FAO, 2005). The workshop was aimed at assisting Indonesia and other countries of the Asian Region in identifying actions to reduce the impacts of KHV on aquaculture and small-scale fisheries and strengthening preparedness in order to improve response to other serious aquatic animal disease emergencies, should they arise in the future. During the workshop, the participants identified the need for more extensive technical guidance for developing countries on emergency preparedness and response for serious outbreaks of aquatic animal diseases, leading to the preparation of this manual.

Ichiro Nomura
Assistant Director General
FAO Fisheries Department
Rome, Italy

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Preparation of this document



1.   Scope and purpose

2.   Background

3.   National planning and coordination

4.   Operational capability

4.1   Responsibility for aquatic animal disease emergencies

4.1.1   National Emergency Disease Planning Committee

4.1.2   National Emergency Disease Planning Officer

4.2   Aquatic animal disease contingency planning as a component of a National Disaster Plan

4.3   Legislation and enforcement

5.   Early warning

6.   Early detection

7.   Risk analysis

8.   Disease surveillance

9.   Early response

10.  Contingency plans

10.1   Summary document

10.2   Technical plans

10.2.1   Control Centers Management Manual

10.2.2   Enterprise manual

10.2.3   Destruction manual

10.2.4   Disposal manual

10.2.5   Disease strategy manuals

10.2.6   Job descriptions

10.3  “Surge” support

10.4  Operational capability

10.4.1   Response management manuals

10.4.2   Diagnostic resources

10.4.3   Training resources

10.4.4   Awareness and education

10.4.5   Simulated response exercises

11.  Recovery from an emergency disease

11.1   Verification and international acceptance of disease freedom

11.2   Rehabilitation of farming and fishing communities

12.  Staying free

13.  References