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ASF simulation exercise: Good practices for handling a deadly pig disease

FAO and the Macedonian Food and Veterinary Agency are leading a two-day simulation exercise on African swine fever (ASF) starting today in Berovo. The exercise is part of FAO’s efforts to work with Balkan counties onincreasing their capacities for responding to a possible outbreak of the dangerous transboundary animal disease that is without a cure.

A group of 33 people from the Food and Veterinary Agency, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, and hunting association and private veterinarians, guided by FAO animal health experts, will simulate outbreaks of African swine fever.

During the first day, two disease suspicion visits will be carried out, one to a commercial farm and one to a backyard farm. In addition, a local disease control centre will be established to address a simulated outbreak in wild boar with an on-the-spot visit to a hunting ground.

The aim of the field work is to practice procedures just as they would need to be carried out in real life in case of disease suspicion, including biosecure entry and exit, clinical examination, pathological examination, and sampling and data collection. Communication between field groups and local disease control centres will be maintained while the centres draw up plans for zoning and surveillance of the disease.

“Simulation exercises are an effective tool to identify current levels of disease preparedness and find areas for further improvement,” said FAO animal health preparedness expert Mark Hovari. “North Macedonia is an at-risk country for ASF, and therefore exercises on ASF are critical to improve early response for the disease.”

During the second day of the exercise, participants will be informed that the disease has been confirmed by the laboratory and use the information obtained on the first day to plan the culling and disposal of animals in the infected farms. Meanwhile, in the case of ASF in wild boar, a separate group will work on discussing measures at the hunting ground and draw up an eradication plan. The exercise’s aim is to challenge veterinary and animal health actors to respond correctly to a possible outbreak of the disease.

In October this year, FAO organized an assessment mission, a biosecurity workshop, and a workshop on ASF in wild boar and hunting biosecurity in North Macedonia. Furthermore, the Food and Veterinary Agency participated in a Training of Trainer workshop. A country-wide survey will determine the scope of the country’s pig sector.

“It is important that we have a systematic approach for each country, where we start with assessment missions, evolve into capacity-building events, and help with setting up exercises. This way we can build up capacity layer by layer,” stressed Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo, FAO animal health officer.

27 November 2019, Berovo, North Macedonia

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