Being prepared is an important precautionary principle to enable a rapid and effective response to any outbreak of an infectious disease. Almost every year, outbreaks of diseases occur in nearby countries with comparable intensive animal production systems.
Despite a history of few disease outbreaks, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) has put great efforts to prepare and revise its contingency plans. These plans include all necessary actions to be taken when handling infected herds in order to ensure an efficient control of an outbreak of a notifiable disease.
The general plan and the disease-specific plans
The Danish contingency plans comprise an overall eradication strategy, tools for eradication, a crisis organisation and a crisis management and communication plan. The disease-specific manuals include operational instructions for those involved in managing the response to the following diseases: foot and mouth disease, classical swine fever, African swine fever, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, avian influenza, Newcastle disease, bluetongue, lumpy skin disease, Rift Valley fever, peste des petits ruminants, sheep pox and goat pox, epizootic hemorrhagic disease, African horse sickness, West Nile fever and diseases in aquaculture.
All contingency plans are publicly available on the website (in Danish).
The following types of specific information are included in the disease-specific contingency plans: characteristics and epidemiology of the disease, sampling procedures, disease-specific cleaning and disinfection procedures, restriction zones, instructions for handling animals and materials from infected herds and herds within the zones, instructions for screening and emergency vaccination.
All contingency plans are regularly updated to be in line with the experiences gained in other European countries. Updates are also based on experiences gained from simulation exercises and from handling actual outbreaks, changes in farming practices, revisions to EU legislation and new knowledge.
The main methods for disease control described in the Danish contingency plans are quarantining of farms suspected of housing infected animals, culling of infected animals, cleaning and disinfection, and zoning.
In general, preventive vaccination against all list 1 diseases (in Danish) is banned (except for Newcastle disease).
However, following an epidemiological analysis of the disease situation, the DVFA may use emergency vaccination to control an outbreak. However, emergency vaccination requires an approval by the European Commission. Denmark is a member of the European Community antigen and vaccine bank giving Denmark access to vaccine in case of an emergency.
Disease control and eradication – 'the Danish Model'
Denmark has a long tradition of eradicating animal diseases. A prominent example is that tuberculosis and brucellosis were eradicated from domestic livestock in Denmark by the mid-1900s. The eradication was achieved as a result of the close collaboration between the veterinary research laboratory, the veterinary administration authority and the industry since the end of the 1800s.
Initially, the animal farming industry launched a voluntary initiative to control the occurrence of infections. This initiative gained broad support from all farmers, and effective eradication measures were subsequently supported by legislation.
Several animal diseases besides tuberculosis and brucellosis have been eradicated in Denmark due to the efficient 'Danish model'; e.g. enzootic bovine leukosis, Aujeszky's disease, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, bluetongue and viral haemorrhagic septicaemia.
In case of an outbreak of an infectious disease covered by EU legislation, Denmark will immediately implement the control and precautionary measures provided for in the EU rules and adopt any other measure, which Denmark deems appropriate.
Denmark has a policy of providing full transparency for the public and international partners with respect to the epidemiological situation and the measures taken to contain diseases. Denmark immediately notifies the other EU Member States, the EU Commission and the O.I.E. of any disease outbreak on its territory or any other serious hazard to animals or to human health and the measures taken to contain the problem. During the crisis, status reports will be elaborated on request and at regular intervals.
As a precautionary measure, a national standstill on movement of animals will immediately be implemented in Denmark. The standstill will be in force for up to 72 hours or until a general overview of the epidemiological situation has been established. Further, the standstill will facilitate the implementation of nation-wide biosecurity measures in farms, during transports and at husbandry-related enterprises.
Gatherings (markets, assembly centres, shows) of animals of susceptible species will be banned.
In 2002, the Danish Animal Health Act was amended to allow for pre-emptive killing of herds in the vicinity of infected premises. Killing of potentially contaminated farms is considered an effective means of halting the transmission of diseases and is therefore incorporated in the contingency plans for diseases, where this measure is appropriate.
As a first priority, carcasses from killed herds and other risk material will be disposed of by rendering, or by incineration at an approved incineration plant, including mobile incinerators. In remote areas of the country, carcasses may be buried. Disposal of carcasses by burning on pyres is considered the last and unlikely option.
Any transport of animals of a susceptible species is restricted to take place as a one-to-one transport, which means from one farm directly to another farm or directly to slaughter. The vehicle must be cleaned and disinfected and subsequently checked by the veterinary authority before a new transport.
The local veterinary authorities must be notified before each transport and the usual seven days notice delay for reporting movements of live animals in the Central Husbandry Register (CHR) is suspended and replaced by a requirement to immediately report a movement.