MPI called into UK disease outbreak simulation

Media contact: Lesley Patston

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has been called into a large scale United Kingdom animal disease outbreak exercise.

The UK authorities have asked MPI to advise on the availability of New Zealand vets, emergency managers and technicians to help manage the simulated outbreak.

The EXERCISE is testing the UK’s capacity to deal with a nationwide outbreak of classical swine fever. In the simulation, the outbreak has become so large that the supply of local animal health experts cannot cope alone and authorities have called on New Zealand for help.

New Zealand is party to a six-country (New Zealand, Australia, UK, Canada, Ireland and USA) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to form an international animal health emergency reserve. In the event of a disease outbreak, vets and other animal health experts can be called in from participating countries. Under the MOU New Zealand vets helped out in the UK’s 2001 foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.

MPI’s Acting Deputy Director General of Response, Dean Baigent says today’s exercise sees MPI engaging its National Biosecurity Capability Network, administered with AsureQuality. This network captures the range of services and people available to assist in a biosecurity emergency response. A number of vets with production animal expertise are part of the network.

“While this is an exercise, we are going so far as to contact individual vets and other technicians such as pathologists to check their availability and to capture their areas of particular expertise.

“This exercise provides us with a great opportunity to test the timeliness of our response processes and also help us prepare for the event of a similar outbreak here.

”Until 9am this morning, we were unaware we were going to be called on in this manner.”

Mr Baigent says strengthening New Zealand’s ability to manage outbreaks of significant animal disease, in particular FMD, is a priority for the Ministry.

“We have implemented an FMD preparedness programme and exercising possible scenarios, both here in New Zealand and internationally, is a key part of that.

“Over the years there has been considerable investment of time and resource into preparing for a serious animal disease outbreak, such as FMD. MPI has a well developed level of general response readiness which has been complemented by specific FMD preparedness work.

"We recognise, however, that being ready to respond to significant animal disease outbreaks demands continuous effort and MPI is making timely and significant improvements to the capability that already exists.”

Deputy Director General Response Andrew Coleman and two other MPI officials are currently in the UK taking part in the exercise.

Mr Baigent stresses that today’s exercise is a simulation and there is no outbreak of classical swine fever in the UK (or New Zealand).

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