Response Review FAQs
Why do we need to update our FMD response policy?
There have been significant advancements in the understanding of FMD viruses, vaccines and technologies, and as a result the Animal Health Australia (AHA) Members’ Forum has tasked AHA to manage a thorough FMD response policy review, in order to modernise Australia’s approach to FMD. Also, a recent qualitative assessment of Australia’s readiness to respond to the threat of FMD (the Matthews Review) highlights a number of areas where improvements would further strengthen Australia’s approach to managing the threat of this disease. The fundamental policy position – eradication without ongoing vaccination – will not change.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the current Australian response policy of stamping out an FMD outbreak?
Stamping out can quickly and cost-effectively eradicate an isolated case of FMD, for example in a single herd of cattle, where there is very little risk of disease spread to other animals. In contrast, where large numbers of animals are kept in high density, the human and operational resources required for stamping out (by slaughter) can be overwhelming. If there are delays, the effectiveness of stamping out by slaughter is not guaranteed, and the disease can spread out of control.Also, not only do large numbers of animals need to be killed very quickly, their bodies have to be disposed of safely, which can be another impediment where large numbers of animals are kept close to urban areas.
Is the approach to eradication fixed for any FMD outbreak in Australia?
No, Australia’s response policy has the flexibility to cater for different situations. While eradication will be the overall aim, consideration of whether to support eradication by vaccinating would take into account the circumstances of the outbreak. The key determining factor in considering the use of vaccination should be how quickly and effectively the outbreak can be controlled and eradicated with a view to restoring business continuity. For example, vaccination could usefully assist the eradication of an outbreak of FMD in an area densely populated with dairy cattle: in such a scenario, huge numbers of animals in confined spaces mean rapid and continuous spread of infection. Stamping-out alone may not be logistically possible and therefore not effective in eradicating the outbreak.
Have we ever tested our response arrangements?
Yes, we have. Following the devastating events in the UK FMD outbreak in 2001, Australia’s ability to manage an FMD outbreak was tested in 2002 in Exercise Minotaur, a national simulation of an FMD outbreak in Australia. More recently, the Victorian Department of Primary Industries conducted Exercise DIVA ’09 to improve the preparedness and capability of DPI Victoria to respond to the incursion of an emergency animal disease, using a scenario of an FMD outbreak in a densely populated dairy farming area.
Exercise DIVA ’09 involved 167 participants and a number of observers. The three-day exercise used a hypothetical scenario based on the detection of FMD in a high density cattle area with significant inter-property movement which would potentially allow FMD to spread. The objectives of the functional exercise included:
- communication between control centres.
- testing of recently developed information systems.
- practising and evaluating the implementation of plans.
What have we learned from the latest simulation exercises conducted in Australia?
The scenario in the 2009 Victorian FMD Simulation Exercise DIVA was an FMD outbreak in a densely populated dairy farming area. The exercise demonstrated that under those conditions, infection would spread rapidly and stamping out on its own would quickly exhaust available resources and therefore possibly not achieve eradication. Very quickly, vaccination became a logical alternative. In the scenario, one problem identified with the current FDM response policy was the availability of sufficient numbers of qualified personnel to kill animals. With FMD being a rapidly spreading disease, the numbers of positive cases rapidly rose from day to day, leading to a backlog of sick, infected and possibly infected animals, all of which – in a real outbreak – would have had to be killed (even if they were healthy at the time).Other problems highlighted as a result of the exercise, were transport of carcasses and disposal methods such as burial or incineration and suitable disposal sites. The exercise concluded that vaccination was a valid and cost-effective option in areas of high cattle density. While a decision on the fate of vaccinated animals might not have to be made at the beginning of a vaccination campaign, it was acknowledged that if large numbers of animals were to be vaccinated, allowing them to live out their commercial lives would be more cost-effective.
Who is involved in the FMD response policy review; who signs off on any changes?
As tasked by its Members, AHA is managing the FMD Response Policy Review with representatives from industry and governments. AHA is working together with experts from industry and government in various for a, typically starting with technical writing groups that analyse the scientific information. Some of the proposed changes resulting from the review may require ministerial approval to become effective; this would particularly apply if the review suggested removing the current mandatory requirement for slaughter of vaccinated animals if vaccination is used to assist eradication.
What is the timeframe for the FMD response policy review?
At this stage, we expect that it could be up to three years until we have a fully reviewed AUSVETPLAN Disease Strategy Foot-and-mouth disease agreed by all relevant parties, including Australia’s Primary Industries Ministerial Council. While this sounds like a long time period, it ensures that all relevant parties can be consulted and have the opportunity for input.
What happens if we have an FMD outbreak now – are we bound by the current policy?
In principle, yes, but alternative approaches are possible provided they are agreed by all affected parties. AUSVETPLAN disease strategies are developed in ‘peace time’ with the primary purpose to have an agreed response policy based on a thorough examination of all options ready at hand in an outbreak situation. The principal benefit of this arrangement is that no time is lost in lengthy deliberations on how best to respond when the emergency situation arises. Therefore, Australia’s ‘Government and Livestock Industry Cost Sharing Deed in Respect of Emergency Animal Disease Responses’ (the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement, or EADRA) states that an EAD response plan ‘must (except as advised by CCEAD and agreed by the NMG) be consistent with … any applicable AUSVETPLAN disease strategy…’.The Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases (CCEAD) is the key technical coordinating body for animal health emergencies. It provides the link between the Commonwealth, states and territories, industry and Animal Health Australia. The NMG is the high level decision making body that determines whether to respond to an animal disease and the direction of that response. As quoted above, CCEAD and NMG can agree on response options other than the ones previously agreed to and described in the AUSVETPLAN disease strategy; however, doing so will inevitably cause delays in the response. It could also lead to confusion, for example, the question could arise why the alternative approach was not included in AUSVETPLAN in the first place.
Where can I find more information on FMD?
You can always ask us! But you may also try the following links:
- AUSVETPLAN, the Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan
- Australia’s Government and Livestock Industry Cost Sharing Deed in Respect of Emergency Animal Disease Responses
- Information of FMD from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/pests-diseases-weeds/animal/fmd
- Disease information sheet from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE): http://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/eng/Media_Center/docs/pdf/Disease_cards/FMD-EN.pdf
- Recommendations for animal health safety in international trade in FMD susceptible animals and their products: http://www.oie.int/eng/A_FMD2012/docs/en_chapitre_1.8.5.pdf
- Technical FMD disease card, regularly updated by experts from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE): http://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/eng/Animal_Health_in_the_World/docs/pdf/Disease_cards/FOOT_AND_MOUTH_DISEASE.pdf
- The OIE’s The Southeast Asia Foot and Mouth Disease Campaign (SEAFMD): http://www.seafmd-rcu.oie.int/documents/SEAFMD%202020%20WEB%20Version.pdf