The following section briefly summarizes the discussions and conclusions arising from the three Working Group Meetings.
WORKING GROUP 1 - REGIONAL COOPERATION
Members: Elmo Weerakorn, Simon Funge-Smith, Michael Phillips, Hardjono, Nguyen Tu Cuong, Nguyen Xuan Ly, Doan van Dai, Kazuya Nagasawa, Rubiyanto Haliman, Fachriyan H. Pasarien, Darnas Dana, Supranee Chinabut, Athula Seneviratna, Sena De Silva and Yoshiyuki Oketani
Objective - The objective of Working Group 1 was to identify needs and possible solutions related to improving regional cooperation to assist national efforts at emergency preparedness and response to outbreaks of serious aquatic animal diseases.
The Working Group recognized that while national agencies have the primary responsibility for responding to disease emergencies, regional cooperation can provide essential support. There is already collaboration in aquatic animal disease control in Asia that has helped in responding to emergency aquatic animal disease outbreaks. We should therefore build on these existing structures to strengthen cooperation to support national efforts to control serious aquatic animal disease outbreaks.
The Working Group then discussed the specific needs of the region with regards to improving international cooperation to address aquatic animal heath emergencies more effectively.
Regional reporting and communications - The Working Group noted that increased sharing of information on national aquatic animal disease status and emerging aquatic animal diseases of significance to Asia is required, and that the openness and accuracy of with which Asian nations provide this information needs to be improved. Awareness on methods for the control of aquatic animal diseases and emergency response should be increased. The Working Group noted that the NACA/FAO/OIE Regional Aquatic Animal Disease Reporting System is an important regional resource, and that the reporting system and the communication networks that support it at the national and regional levels should be further strengthened.
The Working Group noted the importance of the OIE in the setting of aquatic animal health reference standards for international trade, disease reporting and the disease control process. It also noted and that, for most Asian countries, the reporting of aquatic animal diseases to the OIE involves both the national fisheries and veterinary authorities. However, communication between Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) and senior fisheries officers within the OIE system is limited, and there are limited inputs from Asian countries to the standard setting process. Although the veterinary authorities have responsibility for official communication to OIE on livestock and aquatic animal diseases important for international trade, most veterinary authorities in Asia have limited experience with aquatic animal diseases. Thus communication between fishery and veterinary authorities should be strengthened so that Asia's regional concerns can be more effectively communicated to OIE. In this regard, national fisheries agencies need to be more proactive in developing the necessary linkages with their veterinary counterparts. Regional disease reporting is presently based on official quarterly reports. Countries should report more frequently on emergency diseases, to support rational decisions on emergency response measures.
The Working Group noted that the regional list of aquatic animal diseases - reviewed and developed annually by the Regional Advisory Group - includes both OIE-listed diseases and other diseases of emerging importance to the region. Such a list is useful and should continue to be used as a basis for supporting emergency disease response and preparedness for disease emergencies. The Regional Advisory Group should be strengthened through making formal recommendations to be passed through the veterinary channels to OIE.
Regional technical support - The Working Group considered that primary responsibility for prevention, preparedness and response to disease emergencies lies within each country. However, regional cooperation should be used to provide expert teams and information to countries to assist in responding quickly to disease problems. The Regional Advisory Group is a useful mechanism that can be more active in providing coordination and advice on recognizing emergencies and identifying the resources needed to respond effectively. Several competent regional institutions and resource centers exist to provide technical assistance (e.g. SEAFDEC-AQD, AAHRI) in disease emergencies. Collaboration between countries, particularly those countries sharing common borders and watersheds such as the Mekong Basin, on preventing the spread of aquatic animal diseases is also recommended for emergencies.
Diagnostic harmonization - The Working Work recognized that the sharing of information on significant aquatic animal diseases needs to be supported by better harmonization of disease diagnostic tests and techniques. Resource centers with specialist diagnostic skills are required to provide technical support to assist countries in dealing with aquatic animal disease problems. The further development of the resource centers and expert network under the NACA umbrella is recommended to support harmonization in diagnostics among countries and the upgrading of skills.
The Working Group recognized that the OIE code and diagnostic manual should be used as a reference in harmonizing diagnostic standards, and that care must be taken to ensure consistency with international standards. Collaboration and communication among countries should be promoted to influence international standard setting and disease notification. It is important for the region to be more active in getting information on aquatic animal diseases in the region into the OIE standards.
Research - Collaborative research should be encouraged to understand and respond to significant and emerging diseases in the region. The private sector must be involved, since they are also part of networks.
Resources - The Working Group agreed that the region needs resources to draw on in emergencies. Core funding should be allocated to NACA to provide ready resources to respond rapidly to emergencies; donor support should be sought.
Further regional cooperation - The Working Group recommended that joint activities between countries for testing of emergency response should be undertaken, and that regular meetings between countries and the exchange of expertise should be encouraged. Regional training on emergency preparedness is recommended. Regional centers to provide technical support to address emerging disease problems should be further developed.
WORKING GROUP 2 - EARLY WARNING
Members: Chris Baldock (Chairman), Agus Sunarto (Vice-chairperson), Flavio Corsin and C.V. Mohan (Rapporteurs), Celia R Lavilla-Pitogo, Phan Thi Van, Takaji Iida, Murdjani, Taukhid, Hambali Supriyadi , Ly Thi Thanh Loan, Viseth Hav, Thongphoun and Roar Gudding
Objective - The objective of Working Group 2 was to develop recommendations on what activities have to be carried out to implement early warning and detection of aquatic animal health problems and to identify the future steps to be taken at the national level.
Definition of emergency - The Working Group discussed the criteria that can be used to define an aquatic animal health emergency. The group agreed that the definition of emergency for producers and government may be different. For producers, an emergency would be a disease/syndrome (e.g. exotic disease, new disease) observed for the first time and/or any significant mortality/morbidity occurring in their system, including outbreaks of known diseases (e.g. EUS). From the perspective of a government, in addition to the above, emergencies would also include diseases having an impact on trade, human health or affecting the livelihood of poor communities. The Working Group recognized that although some diseases may not yet be considered emergencies, and thus might be ignored by decision makers, they may be recognized as emergencies in the future (e.g. white tail disease).
List of diseases for surveillance system - All the countries in the region have adopted the NACA/FAO/OIE regional disease list, which includes all diseases listed by OIE plus additional diseases of concern to the region. In addition, some countries have more comprehensive national disease lists that include pathogens/diseases of national concern.
Capacity requirements and delivery - A key point in the implementation of early warning systems is assessing the capacity requirements and how to deliver them. The following constraints were identified:
Lack of staff, required skills, a system with the necessary flexibility, stakeholder motivation, and ability to confirm suspect outbreaks and their associated causes.
To alleviate the lack of field officers, farmer-group leaders and volunteer extension workers could be involved in the flow of information.
The Working Group identified three major levels at which capacity building is required: the producers, the disease support center and the decision-making level. Depending on the country, the latter two levels could be operating either at the provincial or national level. The responsibilities and the capacity required at the different levels for implementing an early warning system are identified in table 1.
Communication: warning system - The Working Group highlighted issues related to the slowness of information flow, which in some cases can take up to 1.5 months from emergency occurrence to response initiation. Of special concern is the fact that affected stock may be translocated in the time between emergency detection at the producer level and the initiation of a response, greatly increasing the risk of infectious disease spread. A potential solution to increase the speed of the warning system would be to limit the number of people/institutions involved in the information flow.
Web-based systems for disease reporting have been developed in some of the countries (e.g. Indofish), however, there are problems in populating databases. This is due to a number of constraints related to poor communication, including lack of lower level resources (e.g. at the level of producers, field officers etc.), internet culture, and strong leadership (people that can make it happen).
|Disease support center|
Encouraging producers to send information directly to the national level using modern communication tools (e.g. digital pictures, phone) is an approach that could be taken to overcome the slowness of the information flow and to make best use of the limited expertise available. The response from the national level could then be channeled to the producers through the local services (e.g. field officers, farmer groups). However, this approach may have limited application to the current Asian context.
The Working Group regarded the creation of regional awareness through the QAAD reporting system (e.g. for KHV) to be a part of an early warning system. This serves as an early warning for countries with susceptible species, so that they can take the necessary actions. It was recognized that regional awareness has the additional advantage of generating regional cooperation.
The Working Group identified possible tools for communicating emergencies at a wider level. These include Websites of regional organizations (e.g. NACA, SEAFDEC), aquafarmers' corner, on-line e-learning (which could involve a moderator), and mailing lists (e.g. Indonesian aquaculture mailing list for shrimp culture).
Motivation - The Working Group recognized that motivation at every level was a major concern. As the producers are normally the first to recognize an emergency, their motivation to report to the relevant authorities is essential to an early warning system. The Working Group discussed what would motivate producers to report and what can be done to promote motivation. The following issues were identified:
providing compensation (e.g. as in Japan).
Surveillance - The Working Group recognized that disease surveillance forms the basis for early warning and identified the following areas where improvements are necessary for the implementation of effective surveillance systems:
better diagnostic capability, with strong emphasis on better use of robust diagnostic techniques (e.g. pathology).
Enabling research - The Working Group recognized the importance of needs-based, applied research. Research to support early warning should especially be targeted to three areas: pathology, microbiology (parasitology, virology, bacteriology, mycology) and epidemiology (including forecasting, risk assessment and assessment of the accuracy of Level 1 diagnosis).
Legislation/notification-reporting - The Working Group recognized that legislation is an important support to the implementation of early warning (e.g. the Australian experience), although the existence of legislation, by itself, does not ensure the implementation of an effective system.
Regional/national planning and coordination - The Working Group recognized the need for awareness building at the national level on the importance of different levels of diagnosis (i.e. Levels 1, 2 and 3). This concern rises from the fact that Level 3 diagnosis is often perceived as sufficient. Another concern at the national level is the lack of awareness of diseases of aquatic animals by the livestock veterinary authority, which often hosts the OIE national delegate.
Interaction at the regional level was also recognized as essential to coordinate efforts, especially when countries share susceptible species. Issues such as the trade implications of reporting emergencies arise however, when a country considers whether or not to report an emergency associated with a non-OIE listed disease and ask for regional support.
PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS
For the purpose of identifying what needs to be done and the way forward, the group considered three disease emergency scenarios: (a) occurrence of an exotic disease, (b) outbreak of an unknown disease and (c) increased occurrence of a known endemic disease. Problems and solutions were identified at the producer, disease support and decision-making levels to support the implementation of an early warning system:
Decision-making level - At the decision-making level, the Working Group identified problems concerning (i) poor awareness of decision-makers on important issues (e.g. exotic disease), (ii) inadequate baseline data on diseases, (iii) lack of commitment in developing effective systems (e.g. quarantine, surveillance, risk analysis); (iv) slowness to report to the region and back to farmers; and (v) lack of motivation (in the case where a disease is already present). The solutions identified were (i) to continuously build awareness and (ii) to support development of practical surveillance systems with the flexibility to use different existing resources (e.g. those of the private sector and the livestock sector).
WORKING GROUP 3 - EARLY RESPONSE
Members: Dan Fegan (Chairman), Peter Beers (vice-chair), Mhd. Shariff and Richard Arthur (rapporteurs), Tore Hastein, Juan Albaladejo, Sarah Saleheen, Hasna Banu, Kamiso H. Nitimulyo, Arief Tasliihan, Doan Van Dai, Le Thi Hue Endang, Mudjintami and Dwika Herdikiawan .
Objective - The objective of Working Group 3 was to examine early response efforts both within and outside the region and develop recommendations on what activities have to be carried out to improve national capacity to mount timely and effective early responses to emergency disease situations.
After considerable discussion of individual country experiences, the Working Group considered the elements essential to mounting an effective early response to an emergency disease outbreak. These include:
Presence of an established education and extension system
The Working Group then considered in more detail some of the major requirements of effective early response to disease emergencies, the essential components and issues, the constraints, and the possible solutions.
Authority/responsibility - The essential components/issues for this major requirement were identified as (i) having defined responsibilities and lines of reporting, (ii) having an adequate case definition, (iii) being able to recognize an emergency situation (emergency recognition) and (iv) having adequate contingency planning to respond effectively to the emergency. The Working Group identified the following constraints: inadequate knowledge and training, unclear responsibilities, unclear chain of reporting, inadequate legislation and/or policy, inadequate private-sector cooperation, inadequate compensation and lack of donor support. The solutions were considered to be (i) better description of emergency situations and “triggering”events; (ii) use of systems analysis to provide clear descriptions of lines of authority, mandates and activities tuned to local conditions; (iii) effective implementation and coordination among agencies; and (v) assistance with contingency planning.
On-site investigation - The Working Group identified the essential components/issues for this major requirement as (i) trained local officers, (ii) expert backup, (iii) sample collection and (iv) farmer consultation. The main constraint noted was lack of resources. The solutions included increased epidemiological training, development of mechanisms for financing (local and international), development of effective animal health links (e.g. between fisheries departments and veterinary services), conducting risk assessments on likely problems; developing mechanisms for accessing and distributing disease information (including field guides in local languages) and having access to rapid field diagnostic tests.
Laboratory support - The Working Group identified the essential components/issues for this major requirement as (i) access to adequate resources, (ii) presence of an effective sample submission system, and (iii) the presence of adequate regional and national support. Lack of resources (human, infrastructure, financial etc.) was considered the main impediment, while potential solutions included increasing the availability of tests, developing rapid field diagnostic tests, developing collection and handling protocols, and developing laboratory accession and reporting systems.
Quarantine/movement restrictions - The Working Group identified the essential components/issues for this major requirement as (i) adequate biosecurity (water, vectors, stock); (ii) adequate and safe sanitation and disposal; (iii) appropriate and safe chemical usage; and (v) adequate supporting legislation. The primary constraints were seen as a lack of expertise and resources. Solutions included providing increased advice on farm biosecurity; developing local procedures; providing practical advice on safe movement of live aquatic animals and their products, on chemical usage, and on methods for safe disposal and sanitation; and developing GIS support systems for farm, geographical and trade mapping.
Epidemiological investigations - The Working Group identified the essential components/issues for this major requirement as (i) need to be able to trace disease outbreaks both forward and backward; (ii) to determine the extent of problem and its spread; and (iii) to have adequate record-keeping (both on and off site), coordination and data analysis. Lack of expertise and resources were identified as main constraints, while providing training in epidemiology and emergency management, and developing information management systems were seen as potential solutions.
Communications - The Working Group identified the essential components/issues for this major requirement as (i) having adequate local communication, including feed back; (ii) having adequate communication at the national level; (iii) dealing effectively with the media; (iv) developing effective reporting systems for communicating with stakeholders and (v) having mechanisms to provide regular updates of the disease emergency situation. The major constraint identified was a lack of experienced people to deal with media, while increasing the availability of information on biosecurity practices, providing media training and developing information reporting systems were seen as possible solutions.
Moving on (post-emergency actions) - The working group identified the essential components/issues for this major requirement as (i) making good decisions on control of movements of aquatic animals and/or zoning; (ii) conducting enabling research (including developing vaccines for major pathogens); and (iv) providing advice. The major constraints were identified as lack of expertise and resources, while the possible solutions included improving research infrastructure, developing and improving information dissemination systems, and developing zoning plans (including monitoring and surveillance programmes).
Post-mortem/cost-benefit analysis - The Working Group identified the essential components/issues for this major requirement as (i) learning from the experience, and (ii) providing feedback and improvement to stakeholders. The major constraints were identified as lack of expertise and resources, while obtaining access to cost/benefits expertise was seen as a solution.