Exotic disease outbreak simulation planned by MAF

20 March 2001

Response systems for exotic animal disease will be tested next week (26-30 March) in a simulated outbreak of highly virulent Newcastle disease, which is one of the important exotic diseases of concern for the New Zealand poultry industry.

Planning for the exercise has been underway for many months and involves MAF, AgriQuality New Zealand Ltd, the Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand (PIANZ) and the Egg Producers Federation of New Zealand (EPFNZ).

MAF Biosecurity Authority maintains New Zealand's capability to detect and respond to exotic animal diseases.

New Zealand's exotic disease response system is documented in standards and procedures manuals, and there is a network of trained role-holders in MAF and contractor organisations.

Simulation exercises are an annual event to test the system and to provide training as an ongoing part of MAF's quality systems for biosecurity. Simulations are also used to develop the relationships and mechanisms by which the animal-based industries would participate in response activities.

MAF works with different animal-based industries during simulation exercises in different years. Each exercise is followed by a debriefing to identify where improvements can be made.

The upcoming simulated outbreak will be in South Auckland, an important area for the New Zealand poultry industry.

No other details of the simulated outbreak can be given until during the event, because the uncertainty about how the outbreak will unfold is an important part of the simulation exercise for those involved. Reacting to new information and continuous monitoring and re-assessment of control measures are important skills within the exotic disease response system.

A Field Operations Response Team will be based at a headquarters site in Pukekohe, and field teams will be working on "Infected Places" with poultry industry staff.

An Exotic Disease Response Centre (EDRC) will be set up at the MAF National Centre for Disease Investigation, in Wallaceville. The EDRC will be analysing information coming from field operations, making recommendations on control and containment measures, and directing the field operations teams.

A National Control Centre will operate from MAF Head Office.

Industry representatives will work with MAF's response teams at all levels.

Newcastle disease is a highly contagious viral disease of poultry and other birds. It can cause high death rates in affected poultry over short periods, such as 1-2 weeks. Spread often occurs through dust contaminated with faeces from infected birds being carried about by humans and equipment, although wild birds can also be involved.

Recent outbreaks in Australia have demonstrated the devastating potential of the disease to disrupt poultry production. Those outbreaks were eventually controlled through stamping out procedures. Newcastle disease does not occur in New Zealand, although related viruses that do not cause poultry disease do.

Contacts for technical details on the simulation events or MAF's response systems:

Matthew Stone, Programme Co-ordinator, Exotic Disease Response, phone 04 498 9884 mob 025-332-509 or
Bob Diprose, Executive Director, PIANZ and EPFNZ. Telephone: 09-520-4300, mob 025-929-438.

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