CASE NOTES


HPAI Young 2013 – Lessons Learned from an Emergency Response

Eliz Braddon, SDV Lachlan LHPA 

Posted Flock & Herd August 2015

BACKGROUND

Avian influenza is included on the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) list of notifiable diseases. As a result, Australia has an obligation to respond to any outbreak of avian influenza (AI). That response is dependent on the viral subtype diagnosed. In the case of either H5 or H7 subtypes, the disease becomes a Category 2 emergency animal disease and the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement is enacted. This is regardless of whether the type is low or high pathogenicity (HP).

These strains are considered to have a high pathogenicity for birds thereby causing severe disease in poultry but also pose a risk due to the potential transmission to humans.  Currently our NSW policy on avian influenza has the risk of an HPAI outbreak as low with high impact results.  However, this risk assessment may require some review in light of the past two outbreaks diagnosed 12 months apart (Nov 2012 at Maitland, Oct 2013 at Young). Both these outbreaks have appeared to have started in free range facilities.

This report documents the response to HPAI at Young. 

CLINICAL FINDINGS AND RESPONSE

October 14, 2013 – Day 1 of the response

October 15 – 23, 2013

Oct 23 – Nov 22, 2013

Nov 23 – Jan 9, 2014 – Day 88 of the response

PROOF OF FREEDOM

DISCUSSION

The role of the District Veterinarian in an emergency response can vary considerably.  Most of us feel very comfortable in the areas of Surveillance and Tracing where we can use our day to day skills and apply them to an unusual circumstance.  The concept of doing testing on animals to confirm the presence of disease or following stock /material movements on and off a property are things that we do as a matter of our daily jobs as for other notifiable diseases (eg. VFR, BJD, Anthrax etc).

With this in mind, I entered the emergency response as the local DV.  I initially made contact with my affected producers and worked through the quarantine, tracing, movement restrictions process with my “DV hat” on.  

Pitfall number one – Quarantining in an emergency response is different to doing it like we normally do.  Signs and notifications to not only the affected producer, but to the public, are key.  This is something that all DVs should be made aware of during EAD training.  I was not prepared for (what I considered) a RAMS type approach to quarantining a property.  So we had a media glitch when the announcement was made the next day and the news crew drove straight up the driveway because they could not see any quarantine signs.  

Pitfall number two – Neither I nor the affected producers were aware that a media release was going to occur until after it had happened.  Producers saw it on Facebook, I heard about if from the local practitioner when I was getting sample materials.  NSW DPI or the response need to ensure media releases are provided to all parties before being released to the public.

As the response progressed, I found myself in the role of Surveillance coordinator and then very quickly progressed to Veterinary Investigations Manager.  Surveillance coordinator is something I think most of us are more than happy with as I said and other than adjusting to the emergency response situation, the general concept is familiar.  However, I did not feel prepared to take on Veterinary Investigations Manager.  

Pitfall number three - I was unfamiliar with the responsibilities of the role and often found that I expected “someone” else to do the things I found myself having to deliver (APPENDIX 2).  I have since discovered some very good advice.  If you are to be involved in emergency response, you should be trained to the level of two positions above your typical role.  I think this is something that is worth considering to reduce some of the pressures of an emergency response.

The ‘end game’ of an emergency response is to eradicate the disease.  However, to prove this to the public, the Nation and International trading partners, we have to be able to prove it.  Record keeping and reporting in real time is critical to a response both during and after.  During it is key to know (for the purpose of planning) the expected length of the response, resources that may be needed (weeks in advance), whether the response is “winning” etc.  But after is when we actually prove to the rest of the world that we are back on track and can open trade markets.  

Pitfall number four – real time data entry was extremely difficult in this response.  There were no dedicated data entry personnel.  Staff were not able to access the systems.  Staff that did not use these systems day to day had no understanding of how it worked.  One system was modified on the run for the response and then IT were constantly trying to use the response as a “test” environment with real data.  This is an area that needs much improvement to ensure the data that is captured is also able to be stored appropriately.

Having pointed out all of those difficulties, I think my experience in this response has been a great benefit to me professionally.  Once I accepted the role and went back to first principles, the goal of eradicating the disease as quickly as possible with minimal disruption to the affected producers and community as possible became achievable despite the obstacles that arose.  Nothing like a trial by fire.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank all those that worked out of the Forward Command Post at Young.  Your support and encouragement was unwavering.

DEFINITIONS

EMAI – Elizabeth Macarthur Agriculture Institute

CVO – Chief Veterinary Officer

HPAI – Highly pathogenic Avian influenza

IP – Infected Premise

TP – Trace Premise

SP – Suspect Premise

RA – Restricted Area

CA – Control Area

LCC – Local Control Centre

SCC – State Control Centre

REFERENCES 

  1. Avian Influenza Investigation and Emergency Response. NSW Policy O-024. NSW DPI. Date approved 5/4/2007.  
  2. Ausvetplan Disease Strategy Avian Influenza. Animal Health Australia. V3.4. 2011.
  3. HPAI Young Surveillance procedures, v3.0.  

APPENDIX 1

AVIAN INFLUENZA – Control Area – Property Information Sheet

Date: ................................... LHPA/DPI Inspector(s): .........................................

I am from the Livestock Health and Pest Authority and I am calling in regards to the recent outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu) near Young. 

Property Owner/Contact: ................................................. ..........................................

Address: .....................................................................................................................

PIC: ............................................... Phone/Mobile: ..........................................

Email: ...........................................................................................................................

Do you have any birds on the property? Yes No

If yes, how many birds do you have

Chickens: ......................................... Ducks: ......................................................

Turkeys: ............................................ Geese: .....................................................

Pigeons: ............................................ Guinea fowl: .............................................

Exotics (Eg.ostriches) ..........................................................................................

Pet birds (budgies etc.): ..................................................................................

Have any of the birds been sick/unless within the last month? Yes No

If yes, details of symptoms: ..................................................................................

If they have been sick or are sick, we may need to visit your property to take some samples to rule out bird flu. 

We are interested in the following symptoms:

If you observe any of these symptoms or are concerned regarding your birds, please contact the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888.

For more information, you may wish to have a look at the DPI NSW website, and search for Avian Influenza.

OR alternatively we can provide you with some factsheets via email: preferred email address:  ......................................................................................

APPENDIX 2

EMERGENCY RESPONSE TOOLKIT

Veterinary Investigations

IT

Logistics

 


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