Being prepared for the unexpected is crucial for mounting a rapid and effective response to any outbreak of an infectious disease. Almost every year, outbreaks of disease occur in nearby countries with comparable intensive animal production systems.
The last outbreak of classical swine fever in Denmark was in 1933, last occurrence of foot and mouth disease was in 1983, the last outbreak of Newcastle disease was in 2005 and the only outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza was in 2006.
Despite a history of few disease outbreaks, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) have put a great effort in preparing and revising the contingency plans in line with the experiences gained in other European countries and with recent developments of EU directives.
At the start of the new millennium DVFA together with all stakeholders launched a thorough review of efficiency of the animal disease control in general. On this background, the contingency capability was modernized and developed to handle larger and more extensive crises. This was followed by a review of existing contingency plans and the preparation of new plans.
Contingency plans are in place for the following diseases: African swine fever, exotic diseases, foot and mouth disease, classical swine fever, avian influenza, bluetongue, Newcastle disease and fish diseases. The plans are officially available on the Internet, however, in Danish, only.
In order to be able to provide a prompt and effective response on every suspected case of infectious disease, the following types of information form the basis of every contingency plan: characteristics and epidemiology of the disease, diagnostic procedures, preventive and eradication measures, legal powers, financial provisions, the chain of command, national and local disease control centres, expert groups, resources (personnel, equipment and facilities) and instructions.
Updating of the contingency plans is based on the experience gained through exercises, suspicions and outbreaks and new knowledge.
The DVFA have three dedicated animal health units of regional veterinarians specially trained in managing suspicions and outbreaks of the notifiable animal diseases. These veterinarians are involved in planning and preparing practical issues related to the contingency plans and training of field personnel. The personnel at the Regional Veterinary and Food Administration are trained through seminars, courses and annual simulation exercises. Exercises are conducted on international (Nordic-Baltic Veterinary Contingency Group), national as well as on regional level.
In-house killing of poultry for disease control
In case of an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in a poultry flock it is important to minimize the contact between the people involved and the infected birds. Culling methods applying gas released into a barn with an infected flock is conducted in order to avoid contact between personnel and affected birds.
During project activities founded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and coordinated by the DVFA, the use of gas that was pumped into the barn was tested for the killing of poultry. Nitrogen was tested on hens, ducks, geese and turkeys with satisfying results on hens, ducks and geese. It was learned from the experiments that control of infusion and vaporization of nitrogen is essential especially in very large buildings, and to ensure proper sealing of the barns.