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Producers Key to Triggering Effective Emergency Response

To Triggering Effective Emergency Response


January 15, 2008
By Jim Knisley


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There will always be more to do when it comes to preparing for a
disease outbreak, according to speakers at the Poultry Industry
Council’s (PIC) annual poultry health conference, held last November.

There will always be more to do when it comes to preparing for a disease outbreak, according to speakers at the Poultry Industry Council’s (PIC) annual poultry health conference, held last November.

“We are only as strong as our weakest link,” said Deborah Whale, president of the PIC.
Whale said controlling the consequences of a foreign animal disease outbreak, such as avian influenza, requires a “seamless web” from farm to processor. A breakdown at any level could have devastating consequences.

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While farmers have come a long way in establishing and practicing enhanced biosecurity, more can and must be done, she said.  The on-farm protocols are essential and must be enforced because the day a producer drops his or her guard is the day a bug could enter the barn.

Deb Stark, Ontario’s chief veterinarian, reinforced the message. “You never stop trying to improve readiness,” she said. “We need to get it at the first flock, not at the fifteenth flock.”

She said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is prepared to act aggressively at the first sign of AI. Various provincial ministries are co-coordinating with the CFIA to determine what the standard operating procedures will be in the case of an outbreak and who will be responsible for what.

Stark said, however, “In my opinion CFIA and OMAF (the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food) are not working closely enough.”

She added that all levels of government have learned that they must act quickly and decisively when there is a disease outbreak.

“A prompt response will be critical,” she said.

While everyone is working flat out to get everything ready, more needs to be done in order to be ready for the arrival of a foreign animal disease. “It’s a recognized need and we’re all working on it,” she said.

There have been two full-blown simulations in Ontario in the last two years, and everyone has learned a lot from them, she said.

“They’re not real, but it certainly feels like it when you are in one,” Stark said.

However, no one will know how well prepared they are until there is a real outbreak.

“We really won’t know (how well our plans will work) until we have an emergency,” she said.

A key to triggering that response lies with the producers. They will be the ones who see the signs of something unusual and it is imperative they act quickly. “Anything out of the ordinary” should be reported to their veterinarian, she said.

In the meantime, provincial authorities know that it is better to prevent a disease than react to one. “We will keep pounding on you to keep bugs out of the barn.”

Another key to keeping diseases out of the barns rests with chicken catchers and other service providers.

Brian Herman, of Brian’s Poultry Services, has been leading the way in organizing and co-coordinating service providers including catching crews, feed millers, truckers, fuel suppliers, barn cleaners and manure handlers.

They are developing, in co-operation with the producers, biosecurity protocols and a planned response if there is a disease outbreak. Herman said service providers hope to have a plan ready for review by March and have it in place by August.

Govert Verstralen of Rabobank described the system of disease control in the Netherlands, and said it much more detailed and developed than anything in Canada.

The Netherlands is divided into zones for disease control, and these zones are recognized by export markets and regulators.

In addition, it manages the supply chain from top-to-bottom, covering everything that could impact product quality. These regulations are implemented and enforced by product boards that have been given their power by the Netherlands’ government, are complementary, and enhance national and European government rules and regulations.