5 years ago

Emerging animal diseases: from science to policy - Favv

Emerging animal diseases: from science to policy - Favv

At the same time, the

At the same time, the veterinary systems in place to prevent, identify, diagnose and fight against animal diseases have in some instances appeared to be insufficient to cope with these emerging problems. Some of the diseases mentioned above have sometimes provoked long-term crises both in terms of health and economy. Most of them have been eradicated or effectively controlled within the EU territory. Nevertheless, they should be considered as a permanent threat. An underlining problem is the need for a more proactive rather than reactive approach; crises should be prevented rather than managed. Indeed, the management measures are not only costly, but they can also generate a drop in consumer confidence, and in some cases, even if well implemented, do not lead to eradication. The example of Bluetongue is the most evident: eradication is not envisaged in the short or medium term, only control will be possible, mainly through vaccination, the cost of which will be cumulative over the years. 30 2. The response of the EU 2.1. Management at EU level In recent years, avian influenza - and in particular the H5N1 virus - and Bluetongue have been the two emerging diseases that have caused the biggest problems in Europe. They have clearly showed the need to strengthen the whole EU response system to this kind of threats. That said, the management of these two diseases has been by and large effective. This is probably the result of the progress made in the last decades and of the harmonisation of measures at EU level that started as early as 1982 (EC, 1982) with the establishment of the, Animal Disease Notification System (ADNS, 2008). Since then continuous work has been made on: • the harmonisation of legislation on major diseases, both for surveillance, notification and control methods; • the harmonisation of the import conditions and proce- dures for border inspection posts; • the harmonisation of animal identification and traceability rules and methods; • the common network for animal movement notification and certification (TRACES); • the network of Community and National Reference Labo- ratories, whose capacities have grown year after year (and should be maintained or grow even more)… In addition, the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH) - formerly known as the Standing Veterinary Committee - (EC, 2002) has shown to be a very important and effective forum for exchange of information between Member States and the Commission and for risk management at EU level. 2.2 The role of the Member States and of the European Commission In accordance with Community legislation, Member States have to ensure a rapid response to outbreaks of major disease such as foot and mouth disease, classical swine fever

or avian influenza, by implementing the most appropriate control measures laid down in national contingency plans. The effectiveness of the Member States’ response will always be of fundamental importance. However, within this framework, in case of outbreaks of major animal diseases, the European Commission plays a very important twofold role, as it is able to: • promptly gather and re-dispatch information on animal disease outbreaks which may occur in the Member States, via the Member States’ Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) network, ADNS and the SCOFCAH. These direct and centralised information systems are crucial to ensure a swift and effective response to any emerging threat; • adopt specific Community measures in a few hours, ensuring transparency on the disease situation and on the control measures adopted (EC,1989; EC, 1990a), as well as an appropriate legal framework for the Member States. In addition, the system in place at EU level includes elements of flexibility that should ensure a quick reaction not only for diseases that are already regulated at Community level, but also for those emerging diseases for which no specific legislation exists. Indeed, the system foresees that the Commission, with the support of the Member States in the SCOFCAH, may adopt specific measures whenever a threat to public or animal health is identified. A Community Veterinary Emergency Team (EC, 2007a) has also been set up which includes experts in the fields of veterinary sciences, virology, wildlife, laboratory testing, risk management and other relevant areas. Member States have put forward candidates to be included in the Team. From this list of experts, the Commission selects ad hoc team members when a request for assistance is submitted by a Member State or a third country during an animal health emergency. The Commission finances the operation and informs the Member States through the SCOFCAH of its activities. The Community Veterinary Emergency Team operates not only in EU Member States, but also in third countries. Several assistance missions have taken place in Member States and third countries in recent years. In many circumstances, the EU experts have worked together with international organisations, such as the OIE and the FAO. It is both by intelligence gathering and by providing assistance in areas where these emerging diseases are prevalent, that these diseases can be prevented from entering or spreading across the EU. 3. The EU policy for animal health 3.1. Background By means of its Communication: “A new Animal Health Strategy for the European Union (2007-2013) where prevention is better than cure” (EC, 2007b) the Commission has launched a new strategy for animal health, aimed inter alia at preventing emerging or re-emerging diseases. This new Animal Health Strategy provides the framework for animal health and welfare measures over the next six years. Given the devastating impact that serious disease outbreaks had, and can still have, on farmers, society and the economy, the new strategy is based on the principle that “prevention is better than cure”. 31

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