FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Vets from the Balkans and Eastern Europe discuss disease risk communication and outbreak management

A four-day FAO workshop started on 10 December in Budapest, bringing together representatives from veterinary services from the Balkans and Eastern Europe to learn and discuss risk communication and disease outbreak management. The curricula paid special attention to stamping out procedures, such as eradication and disposal of African swine fever (ASF) and lumpy skin disease (LSD) outbreaks.

For the 16 participating veterinarians coming from eight countries, the workshop provided an excellent opportunity to share experiences and benefit from the complementary levels of expertise between the two regions. For example, while the Balkans have managed to control a large LSD epidemic through a coordinated regional vaccination approach, Eastern Europe has never experienced that disease. However, other countries present at the workshop (Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine) have been fighting ASF for several years now, even though the disease has only recently entered the Balkans.

Introductory presentations focused on disease knowledge and plenary sessions exchanged experiences in disease control and eradication. Participants became familiar with the guiding principles and concepts of effective risk communication and national risk communication strategy development through case studies. The ASF-related work of FAO’s Emergency Management Centre-Animal Health was also reviewed.

After the discussions on emergency preparedness, the workshop shifted to response, combining elements of risk communication with disease knowledge. Subsequent sessions were dedicated to stamping out ASF and LSD through depopulation and disposal tactics for pigs and cattle in small- and large-scale outbreaks, such as the use of carbon dioxide for culling herds, effective burial volume, and which equipment is needed in the case of mass burning of pigs.

In addition, participants learned about dealing with the media and shared their past experiences, concluding in experiential learning of crisis communication best practices via a role-playing exercise and follow-up discussion.

Participants found the workshop engaging, according to an online feedback survey after the workshop, appreciating both the technical and veterinary aspects of depopulation and disposal, including how to handle media during an outbreak. Overall the workshop was viewed as useful and, based on the feedback received, it is likely participants will be able to apply best practices in emergency preparedness and risk communication on their daily jobs.

10 December 2019, Budapest, Hungary