Recently, Elizabeth Parker, DVM, chief veterinarian for the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), a Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence, gave a presentation at the 2016 Open Session for the European Commission for the Control of Foot and Mouth Disease (EuFMD) – the largest technical and scientific meeting on FMD to be held on a regular basis. Parker’s presentation, titled “Advancements in Compartmentalization and Regionalization – Opportunities, Relationships, Information and Challenges” was given during the EuFMD “Higher Health Compartments: The Way Ahead” section of the conference.
Parker’s presentation focused on identifying key issues, relationships and possible agreements that need to be discussed and worked out, preferably prior to an outbreak, to enable practical implementation of high health compartments. Specifically, Parker was referring to the concepts of compartmentalization – an animal subpopulation with a distinct health status established under a common biosecurity management system – and zoning – a clearly defined part of a country containing an animal subpopulation with a distinct health status.
“Using a high health compartment on day one of an outbreak is not possible,” said Parker, “All actors along the private and public sectors should be discussing these issues now. Methodically working through key issues might inform the overall response as well as contribute to successful business continuity and food security while minimizing risk of virus spread and mitigating some of the mid- to longer-term negative economic impacts of an FMD outbreak.”
These discussions could elucidate that compartments might not work for everyone in every situation.
“An underlying premise to my presentation and the potential use of compartments is that it is done in concert with all of the appropriate FMD response and control activities, in line with World Organisation for Animal Health guidelines and national and state animal health authority regulations, along with producer and livestock/market value chain logistics, business structure and contractual realities,” Parker said. “There will be species and sector differences, as well as differences within sectors.”
Parker also described how technological innovations and scientific advances provide opportunity to lessen some of the challenges in a successful FMD response and use of high health compartments.
Specifically, Parker mentioned how improved next-generation vaccines and diagnostic tools for differentiating infected animals from vaccinated animals and tools like IIAD’s AgConnect® suite enhance the ability to rapidly share real-time data, can promote quality control, verification, transparency and assurances of safe domestic movement or exports of non-affected animals/products.
Collaboration of private and public sectors on business continuity planning – to include development of and implementation strategies for sector-specific Secure Food Supply plans – can also assist in effective establishment and use of compartments and zones (regions) as these plans can include details of the multiple layers of response components that are customized to species specific needs (i.e. biosecurity, surveillance, communication, data management, managed movement and management of infected premises). Vital to the success of any plan, Parker said, is clear, transparent communication to consumers and our trading partners.
Discussing lessons learned from the U.S. poultry industry’s response to highly pathogenic avian influenza in 2014, Parker noted that the use of high health compartments and zones within a state, country or region could also be a positive contribution towards maintaining a safe food supply, assisting with business continuity and sustaining rural/national economies.
“Disease management strategies have significant impacts along the entire farm to table continuum,” Parker said. “High health compartments might be one tool that could be successfully used by some to help mitigate economic and food security harm caused by an FMD event in a previously free country. How to apply compartments is a relatively new conversation for many and it will take shared discussions to mature the concept – taking it from concepts on paper to successful implementation.”
“Successful advancement and use of compartments or zones will require focused collaborations at national and international levels between livestock owners, the livestock marketing/value chain, veterinarians, scientific experts, animal health authorities and international bodies,” said Parker, “And the discussions must include enabling policies surrounding these concepts and technology advancements in combating FMD.”
Also attending the meeting, Melissa Berquist, Ph.D., IIAD associate director, agreed.
“Technology advancements and policy discussions must go hand in hand,” Berquist said. “Meetings like the Open Session bring together global experts to discuss these challenging problems. IIAD’s participation and leadership in these important topics is part of the Institute’s mission to better protect U.S. animal agriculture, public health and the economy.”
Parker said she appreciated the opportunity to contribute to the conversation and the meeting’s theme – which focused on innovation and translating science into improved disease management – as they are both at the core of IIAD’s work.
“IIAD’s biological research portfolio has a strong history of developing priority disease screening tools, diagnostics and vaccines and our analytical tools portfolio provides additional solutions for today and the future,” Berquist said. “These two, combined with the Institute’s extensive educational programs and expansive U.S. and international collaborations, allow IIAD to directly engage with stakeholders, perform cutting edge research and deliver targeted solutions that address priority issues for livestock producers, governments and other partners.”
Headquartered in College Station, Texas, IIAD was founded in 2004 as a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Center of Excellence. The Institute focuses on research, education and outreach to prevent, detect, mitigate and recover from transboundary, emerging and/or zoonotic diseases, which may be introduced intentionally or through natural processes. In 2014, IIAD was recognized by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as a Collaborating Centre in the specialty of biological threat reduction. IIAD is the only centre of this kind in OIE’s America’s region and the only OIE Collaborating Centre within the Texas A&M University System. For more information, visit iiad.tamu.edu.