Emergency services critical to Foot and Mouth scenario

17 September 2002

Harnessing emergency services is critical to the effective management of an exotic animal disease outbreak.

This observation was made by Derek Belton Director Animal Biosecurity for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), after returning from Exercise Minotaur - a Foot and Mouth disease simulation exercise held in Australia last week.

"This was a major training exercise for people who would have to deal with a real outbreak and was taken very seriously by all those involved. Police and the defence forces have an essential role to play in large scale responses," he said.

"Time critical tasks such as notifying and enforcing movement controls on infected farms, managing logistics at response headquarters such as communications, mapping, administration and providing frontline labour for slaughter, cleaning and disinfection is key to managing an outbreak."

Mr Belton said New Zealand's own animal disease response programme is geared to react immediately should an outbreak of an exotic animal disease occur. This would involve activation of the National Crisis Centre at the Beehive. This activation is part of a cabinet decision in December 2001, which outlined the central management model for all major national crises including biosecurity responses. The Domestic and External Security Co-ordination (DESC) operates under the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and integrates MAF's existing exotic disease response procedures.

Ongoing systems include a 24-hour exotic pest and disease toll-free hotline as well as a comprehensive and carefully regulated system of agreed import health standards and border controls. At the first report of a possible foot and mouth outbreak a disease response manager would respond within 15 minutes and a report back within five to six hours.

"If the disease was confirmed, an immediate national livestock standstill would be put in place, all susceptible stock on infected farms would be slaughtered and intensive tracing and investigation of movements of livestock, stock trucks, and anything else that had come into contact with the site of infection would be initiated," he said.

Exercise Minotaur was based on a scenario where the disease spread from a farm in Southeast Queensland to Northern NSW and then into Victoria. By the end of the simulation there were 454 infected properties, the total number of premises to be slaughtered out was 1819 and the total number of animals slaughtered 822,504.

For more information contact:

Stephen Olsen, Communications Adviser Tel: (04) 470 2753, or (025) 977 028

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