Legislative basis for the notifiable diseases
Danish Animal Health Act is the legislative basis for the current notification procedures. The Act also stipulates the animal diseases notifiable in Denmark and gives powers to require the notification of suspected cases of those diseases. Furthermore, this Act gives powers to carry out diagnostic and epidemiological investigations, impose movement restrictions, create protection and surveillance zones, control movements within such zones, take samples, slaughter infected and in-contact animals, pay compensation, destroy carcasses and potentially infective materials, carry out cleaning and disinfection and, if necessary, carry out emergency vaccination.
The notifiable animal diseases listed in
Executive Order No. 54 of 26 January 2011 are divided into two groups: list 1 and list 2. Any suspicion of a disease on list 1 must immediately be notified to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA), whereas notification of a disease on list 2 is only mandatory after confirmation of the disease. The Danish list 1 of notifiable diseases includes all serious diseases in animals as well as several zoonotic diseases.
Obligation to notify suspicion of animal diseases
Effective surveillance for clinical diseases is required for early detection of disease outbreaks. According to the Animal Health Act, any farmer is obliged to call a veterinarian right away, if he suspects a notifiable disease. The veterinarian must immediately notify the regional Veterinary Control Office (VCO) of the DVFA, if he suspects a disease on list 1. A veterinary officer from the VCO will inspect the herd within a specified number of hours (three or five hours depending on whether the suspicion is raised at a slaughterhouse or a farm) and make a report to the DVFA on the suspected case. If the veterinary officer cannot rule out the suspicion of a list 1 disease, official restrictions are imposed on the herd, and test material is collected and dispatched to the National Veterinary Institute at the Technical University of Denmark.
As a second line of defence, official veterinarians are responsible for inspecting all animals at shows and assembly centres (whether for production, slaughter or export). Also the ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections at slaughterhouses are an important part of the surveillance system.
A high level of awareness among farmers and private veterinarians is required to ensure notification of even the slightest suspicion of a notifiable disease. Generally, the level of education among Danish farmers is high. Information of disease symptoms and significant disease events in EU countries and other parts of the world are made readily available to the Danish farmers and veterinarians in farmers’ magazines, in the Danish Veterinary Journal, electronic newsletters, at farmers conferences, at veterinary conferences and at various websites, e.g. the DVFA's.
Handling of suspected cases
The DVFA ensures the uniform handling of all suspected cases through the application of 'action cards', which have been developed for most of the notifiable diseases. The action cards available on the DVFA intranet list all necessary actions to be taken while handling a suspected case.
Transparency in dealing with suspected cases and outbreaks
All suspected cases of a notifiable disease will immediately be registered in a database and announced on the website of the DVFA. This database resource displays information on each individual suspicion. This is done to increase the awareness among farmers and veterinarians of the potential presence of the relevant notifiable disease.
If a suspected case is deemed to be of potential interest to the general public and/or export markets, the website announcement will be followed up by a press release and targeted information to the embassies of the main export markets. The database is available to everyone on the website (in Danish).
Compensation for losses caused by notifiable diseases
The DVFA offers compensation to animal owners who suffer a loss due to a notifiable disease. The offer of compensation is a major contribution towards compliance with the obligation to notify listed diseases.
In case of an outbreak of a notifiable disease that implies the eradication of animals and/or eggs and destruction of contaminated feed, the DVFA offers compensation for the value of the animals, eggs and feed. In most outbreaks, this value is estimated by a valuation committee. The committee has three members, one appointed by the herd owner, one appointed by the DVFA and one being an employee of the DVFA. The premises are cleaned and disinfected according to a fixed plan and paid by the DVFA. Furthermore, the DVFA pays 20% of the estimated loss of income due to the loss of production. If the outbreak is in either cattle or pigs, the Cattle Levy Fund or the Pig Levy Fund covers the remaining loss of income.
Denmark has several pathogen-specific surveillance programmes aimed at demonstrating the absence of diseases that usually cause insignificant clinical symptoms, or at determining the occurrence, prevalence or distribution of diseases or infections. The surveillance method used depends on the disease and the purpose of the programme, and usually a combination of different surveillance methods is applied.
The DVFA has special focus on infectious diseases that have increased in incidence in other countries and may further spread in the near future and potentially be introduced into Danish territories.
Examples of Danish surveillance programmes for emerging diseases:
Cattle farmers are offered a laboratory examination of material from abortions (foetus, placenta and blood sample from the mother cow). Through autopsies and microbiological and histological examinations, the material is examined for brucellosis, BVD and any new, emerging infections.
Blood samples from outdoor poultry are tested for West Nile fever.
Carcasses of pigs submitted for autopsy are tested for classical swine fever and African swine fever.
A special screening for porcine epidemic diarrhoea was initiated by the DVFA in 2014.
Animal Health in Denmark, 2012