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Planning to Stop Disease

Command Centre is a Key Element in the Industry


January 15, 2008
By Jim Knisley


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Ontario’s Command Centre is a Key Element in the Industry’s Plans to Control and Limit the Damage from any Disease Outbreak

After listening to the lessons learned from the British Columbia avian influenza outbreak, Ontario’s feather boards decided they needed to develop a better system within their province.

Greg Morrison, field operations coordinator for the Ontario Turkey Producers Marketing Board, said the four boards decided to work together to develop a systematic plan to deal with an emergency involving any poultry disease.

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The boards had already collected the location of every registered poultry barn in the province using hand-held GIS software in 2003.  In August of 2004, the four boards formed the Feather Board Command Centre.  This centre received its first test in the Poultry Industry Council’s avian influenza simulation in October of that year, Morrison told attendees at the Ontario Turkey board’s annual meeting March 3.

In 2004 and 2005 the command centre was activated four times in response to disease scenarios involving poultry, and again in December 2005 for the Ontario Livestock and Poultry Council’s livestock disease simulation.

The command centre is in the process of implementing the recommendations of expert auditors who observed the simulations. It is meeting with industry stakeholders and the provincial and federal governments to:

1. Develop open, comprehensive lines of communication, which will ensure rapid distribution and consistent messaging during a crisis.

2. Effect rapid deployment and reduce the overall emergency response time.
3. Improve disease containment and control measures.

Going forward, each sector of the poultry industry including feed companies, transporters and catching crews are responsible to each other for developing a documented and group sanctioned disease response for their sector, says Morrison.

Once all the procedures are in place, the whole industry could meet and jointly develop a communications plan to identify key items, such as who will be the first contact for each sector to ensure a coordinated effort without duplication, and ensure that each sector is ready to mobilize in an efficient, cost-effective manner, he says.

For the feather boards, this means encouraging producers to commit to an early self-declaration to a veterinarian, their feather board or government that they suspect their flock has a disease.

Morrison stressed “an early self-declaration is vital to control a disease outbreak.”
He reminded the producers at the annual meeting that the board’s regulations also require it.

“When abnormal mortality occurs to a flock, a producer shall file a report with the commodity board at its office immediately,” the regulation says.

The feather boards also encourage producers to:
1. Prepare for self-quarantine by implementing farm food safety procedures and having a stock of emergency supplies.

2. Develop and maintain a contact list of regular farm visitors.

3. Keep good records of visitors to the farm and activities on the farm, and adopt good record keeping practices and employ on-farm food safety measures at all times.

4. Keep a current emergency contact list posted near your phone.

The feather board command centre is also working to develop standard biosecurity measures and visitors’ procedures. It has also developed enhanced biosecurity protocols that would be used by producers during an emergency.

The command centre is also looking to recruit additional expertise including a veterinarian, a communications expert and, perhaps, a well-trained and well-versed producer from each commodity, he said.

The centre is looking at the logistics of holding a stockpile of materials and equipment that would be essential in an emergency and continues to review and evaluate the effectiveness of the disease surveillance practices of each of the poultry sectors.

The centre must also work with government and others to address backyard flock issues. This would include locating the premises, identifying the species and maintaining a database of the operations so that they can be contacted in the event of an emergency.

Other issues are also being dealt with. They include:
• Identifying carcass disposal options and contingency plans for a large-scale depopulation.
• Funding or compensation issues.
• Establishing a veterinarian emergency response team and support program.
• Working with municipalities to develop plans for setting up a control zone – for example
roadblocks and decontamination stations.
• Increasing communications and planning with other livestock groups beyond the farm level.
The feather boards, Morrison says, “are taking a very proactive approach for emergency management.”

But the key to the whole system is the co-operation and early response by producers. “Producers need to self-declare if they believe there is a problem on their farm,” he said. 


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