Veterinary authorities from Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and the USA have joined forces to simulate an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
The international emergency animal disease simulation, named Exercise Athena, was led by Australia and tested arrangements for deploying personnel across international borders to respond to emergency animal disease events.
The scenario placed Australia at the centre of the fictitious outbreak across three jurisdictions.
In the exercise, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources requested assistance from signatories to the International Animal Health Emergency Reserve (IAHER) Arrangement, which allows countries to share personnel during an emergency animal disease event.
Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Mark Schipp, said that Athena provided the opportunity to test procedures, train staff and raise awareness more broadly of the requirements for participating in an animal disease response.
“These exercises are an important part of building our capability and preparedness in Australia to manage and respond to emergency animal diseases such as Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD),” Dr Schipp said.
“A large outbreak of FMD is estimated to cost Australia more than $50 billion over 10 years and would put enormous pressure on our domestic management and response resources which is why an agreement to share international personnel is so important.
“Our involvement in Athena demonstrated areas where we can fast track administrative arrangements for financial reimbursement, veterinary registration and Occupational Health and Safety that will ultimately put more people on the ground sooner to response to any future disease outbreaks.”
All countries agreed that ongoing collaboration and communication were essential to using the IAHER Arrangement successfully.
Lessons identified during the exercise will be further investigated by the Animal Health Quadrilateral group and relevant national committees. When finalised, the improvements will be incorporated into Australia’s international and domestic response arrangements and procedures.
For information on Exercise Athena visit http://www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/emergency/exercises/athena.
$500,000 boost to Australia’s FMD biosecurity defence
- Coalition Government investing in pro-active Foot and Mouth disease training in Nepal
- Enables people to detect FMD symptoms and the warning signs first-hand
- Expressions of interest sent to industry
Producers, stock handlers, private and government vets and animal health policy-makers will receive first-hand insight into dealing with Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) thanks to the Coalition Government’s $491,000 investment for training in Nepal.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, today encouraged the many industry groups that are on the frontline to manage an FMD outbreak to participate in the training.
“A key part of our effectiveness to respond to emergency animal diseases is having trained people across industry who are our eyes and ears on the ground,” Minister Joyce said.
“This training is giving them invaluable experience in Nepal, a country where FMD is endemic. Seeing FMD up close and personal, including the symptoms and warning signs, will help them better understand the disease and what an outbreak could mean for Australia.
“Having more participants undertake this training, run by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, will help strengthen Australia’s ability to manage and respond to an FMD outbreak.
“It is a key measure of the government’s biosecurity surveillance funding in the $4 billion Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.”
Since September 2013 the Coalition Government has now invested $1.1 million into this program, which is co-funded with industry and state and territory governments. This has enabled 120 people to undergo training in Nepal, spanning across the pork, dairy, sheep, wool and beef industries.
People undertaking this training will be subject to strict biosecurity screening on their return to Australia, as are all people and goods arriving in our country.
“An FMD outbreak would have devastating impacts on our valuable livestock industries, shutting down livestock movements, curtailing exports and savaging our trading reputation,” Minister Joyce said.
“A large outbreak of FMD is estimated to cost Australia more than $50 billion over 10 years.
“Australia has an internationally recognised capability to deal quickly and effectively with emergency animal disease outbreaks.
“Training industry members in Nepal is vitally important to equip participants with the skills and experience to recognise and report FMD symptoms and ensure we can act as quickly as possible should the need ever arise in this country.
“Australia remains free from FMD and we are doing all that we can to keep it that way, but you have to plan for the worst and ensure you are ready to respond.”
Expressions of interest for people to undertake this training have been sent to industry bodies as part of a co-funding arrangement. These organisations will now have the opportunity to consult their members and to respond.
Sources: Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources