Outbreak response

Advancing the nation’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to animal disease outbreaks.


TJWL_3648he Institute plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have the tools to successfully address components outlined in Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9 (HSPD-9): Defense of United States Agriculture and Food. In this directive, the vulnerability of the U.S. agricultural sector to the natural or intentional introduction of a high-consequence animal disease is clearly defined. Agriculture is established as a critical infrastructure, and DHS is given the responsibility to “accelerate and expand development of current and new countermeasures against the intentional introduction or natural occurrence of catastrophic animal, plant, and zoonotic diseases.” An August 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office, Actions Needed to Improve Response to Potential Terrorist Attacks and Natural Disasters Affecting Food and Agriculture (GAO-11-652), further stressed the need for DHS to coordinate inter-agency implementation of HSPD-9.

DHS has the responsibility of protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure and key resources. And, both DHS and the USDA have emergency response mandates. The Institute’s portfolio supports this planning and response effort through focusing on developing comprehensive solutions for emergency preparedness. IIAD researchers work to develop tools through collaboration with partners in the federal government, state governments, animal agriculture and biopharmaceutics. These partners include: USDA Veterinary Sciences (e.g. National Animal Health Laboratory Network, the National Veterinary Services Laboratories, Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health, USDA Agricultural Research Service), components of DHS (e.g. Science & Technology Directorate, Office of Health Affairs, Customs and Boarder Protection), State Departments of Agriculture (e.g. Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Indiana Board of Animal Health, Kansas Department of Agriculture, Colorado Department of Agriculture), academia, industry (e.g. National Pork Board, American Association of Swine Veterinarians), and biopharma (e.g. iBio, Ceres Nanosciences and BIOO Scientific).

Diagram of emergency cycleDeveloping a plan to mitigate the impact of a disease outbreak emergency is crucial. However, successful planning must go beyond those actions related to the mitigation, response and recovery associated with an animal disease outbreak and must also account for potentially disastrous negative economic impacts resulting from disruption of the normal business cycle. During an animal disease outbreak, threats to business continuity may include obstacles such as: stop movement orders, quarantine zones and other restrictive measures that inhibit the movement of animals or animal products, damage markets (domestic and international) and lead to adverse public opinion and misinformation. These threats are even more critical as longevity of the disease outbreak and density of the animal population increase. In addition, the outcomes are likely to be exacerbated if the identified disease can infect multiple species of commercial animals – with the worst case being zoonotic strains that can infect humans.

The impact of an animal disease outbreak involves a complex array of stakeholders along with their individual and collective interests. When faced with the uncertainties of a major disease outbreak, early responders and decision makers at all levels require tools to help them sort reality from chaos and select the strategies that will minimize the danger to human health, livestock health and the economy. The direct and immediate response must include the engagement of emergency management professionals and coordinated stakeholder involvement from other impacted areas. These areas could include: allied industries, biosurveillance programs, veterinary diagnostic laboratories and business continuity operations. Cooperation among stakeholders is crucial as information generated and managed by one stakeholder group is likely to have value to others by promoting shared situational awareness and contributing to the formulation and execution of better decisions by all in less time.

The Institute’s researchers are heavily engaged in the use of information technology and the implementation of decision support tools in each of these stakeholder communities. These industry relationships position IIAD to address the requirements for exchange of information and data across communities from both a domain and technical perspective – especially focusing on business continuity planning and operations. IIAD also heavily leverages proven technology developed for related applications within DHS and Agriculture and a rich network of stakeholder relationships in government and academia. These established relationships and the ability to interface with the respective stakeholder communities are critical to the creation of risk management tools supporting the decision-making process before, during and after a disease outbreak.

The AgConnect® Business Continuity project has focused on making better, faster decisions with respect to business continuity planning and operations.  This project brings together multiple components of a national response by the agricultural and public health sectors to mitigate the disruption to the normal business cycle for livestock, poultry, and associated animal products that is likely to occur during an animal disease outbreak in the United States.

This work has developed a data/information sharing and management architecture using AgConnect® that allows for compartmentalization of business sensitive data, for it to be distributed in a controlled manner, and integrated to support shared situational awareness and decision making. The ultimate benefit to DHS, USDA and the agricultural industry of these integrated tools supporting risk assessment, mitigation, and management during response operations will be to ultimately allow business operations to resume through sharing of information to demonstrate proof of negative status.