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Extracts from the Chief Veterinary Officer's 2004 Report (Part Two)

Contingency planning

Contingency Plans

In March 2004 the Contingency Plan for foot and mouth disease (FMD) and the Contingency Plan for Avian Influenza and Newcastle Disease were laid before Parliament as required by the Animal Health Act 1981 (as amended) and placed on the Defra website at This followed 12 weeks of consultation.

The framework, organisation and structures that have been developed for FMD would also be introduced in the event of an outbreak of Avian Flu or Newcastle Disease and the plans have many common elements. The same, or similar structures would be introduced in the event of most exotic animal diseases such as classical swine fever were there to be an outbreak in this country and would provide the basis for others including rabies. Each also summarises the policies that would be implemented to control the disease.

The plans set out the policies to be implemented in an outbreak and capture the arrangements for ramping up resources to deal with an emergency. This includes engaging veterinary, technical and administrative staff. Also, the International Animal Health Emergency Reserve arrangement with the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland has now been signed for implementation in an emergency; bringing in named individual staff for particular roles such as the Regional Operations Directors and Finance Managers; increasing accommodation; and the development of contingency contracts for slaughterers, valuers, hauliers and transport.

SECTION C: Exotic, endemic, and new and emerging disease surveillance

Chapter C1: Contingency planning

One important aspect of readiness for foot and mouth disease is the capability to deliver emergency vaccination. In May, a three year contract was signed with Genus to provide the trained vaccination teams and all the support arrangements for an outbreak, and in September legal provision was made for lay handling and vaccination in an outbreak so allowing the best use to be made of scarce veterinary resources. Vaccine supplies were reviewed and arrangements confirmed for the availability of vaccines for the virus strains most likely to cause an outbreak here.

In December, consultation began on the Rabies Contingency Plan, supported by a Disease Control Strategy and Disease Profile which provide information about the disease and provide scenarios to explain the rationale for the control strategies and how the controls would be implemented. This can be viewed at contingencyplan.pdf Instructions

The contingency plans provide the overall framework for the strategic, tactical and operational levels for managing a disease outbreak. The detailed operational guidance and instructions for FMD have been reviewed and updated to take on board lessons learned in 2001. These were placed on the Defra website at in April and are now available for operational partners and others to read. This means that the instructions contribute to developing a better understanding by all who would be involved or affected in an outbreak. Instructions for dealing with other exotic diseases are being reviewed and updated.

Exercise Hornbeam

In 2004 Defra held Exercise Hornbeam with the aim of reviewing and updating the foot and mouth disease contingency plans and establishing readiness for an outbreak. The Exercise was made up of a series of 10 table top exercises that culminated in a two day real-time exercise in June involving five SVS Animal Health Divisional Offices across England, Scotland and Wales, Defra headquarters and other government departments, including the Cabinet Office, as well as operational partners – altogether over 500 people.

The table top exercises related to the developing phases of disease from initial report through to national spread and covered the various elements of the control effort. Exercise Hornbeam demonstrated how much progress had been made since 2001 and generally that the plans were now robust. The Report is available at 94

Section C – Chapter C1

Report on Exercise Hornbeam.

Like all exercises, it also identified areas where more work is necessary. Overall it confirmed the existing policies as set out in the Contingency Plan and identified the importance of having policies developed in advance for the whole life of an epidemic, confirmed the value of the arrangements for scientific input to decisions, reinforced the importance of clear structures to enable effective decision making, confirmed the need for speed in responding to the first case and deploying resources, and confirmed the importance of openness, engagement with operational partners and good communication both internally and externally with stakeholders and the public.

Lessons learned from Exercise Hornbeam in relation to policy development and its use of scientific advice are being taken forward by the Animal Disease Policy Group and in consultation with the independent Science Advisory Council.

Major exercises in animal health divisional offices in 2004 focused on preparedness for rabies, foot and mouth disease and avian influenza and involved operational partners and stakeholders. Exercises both in local offices and at headquarters continued to provide training and develop understanding across a wide range of the skills and expertise needed in an outbreak.

Exercises will continue to play an important part in testing readiness and ensuring staff are aware of and able to deliver their responsibilities. Plans are being made for a major avian influenza exercise in 2006.


Page 9/10 (p101-102 of the full report)

" ....FMD can still be considered as present, endemically or sporadically in two thirds of the planet. 2004 was marked by the occurrence of serotype C in Brazil and in Kenya, after nearly ten years absence from international reports. The FAO World Reference Laboratory for FMD received clinical samples from 23 countries in 2004. Among different findings, genetic analysis of these isolates revealed a change in the classical pattern of prevailing FMDV serotypes and sublineages in South East Asia and a great diversity of African FMD viruses, including the existence of a new sublineage within serotype O. However, antigenic characterisation data suggests that current vaccine strains of FMDV stored in the UK vaccine bank remain appropriate

Progress has been made on simplifying diagnostic procedures by investigating the use of integrin v6 protein as a capture ligand in ELISA tests. Further studies are planned to incorporate the integrin molecule into serotyping assays as well as other virus detection procedures (for example, pen side chromatographic strip tests, biosensors, Immunocapture RT-PCR, antigenic characterization procedures and monoclonal antibody profiling of emerging field virus strains) and antibody detection assays.

Avian influenza (misprint?) FMDV can be excreted in milk and this may precede first clinical signs. Therefore, analysis of bulk milk samples could provide a means of rapidly identifying infected herds. Since virus isolation is too slow and cumbersome for this type of screening, the automated real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) has been examined as a diagnostic tool for detection of FMDV in milk using samples from infected dairy cattle. RT-PCR was found to be as or more sensitive than virus isolation and would be able to detect small numbers of infected cows by analysis of a bulk milk sample. Furthermore, unlike virus isolation, RT-PCR could detect virus in samples treated with a commonly used milk preservative, and following heat treatment that simulated pasteurisation.

Establishing a system for demonstrating freedom from infection after emergency vaccination of animals in the face of an outbreak is a high priority in support of the so-called “vaccinateto- live” control option. To this end, a wide range of samples have been collected, tested and stored from cattle that have been vaccinated and then exposed to FMD virus as part of studies of the effectiveness of existing vaccines. Samples taken from cattle in Zimbabwe have been used to provide data on the sensitivity and specificity of various tests that can be used to detect infection in vaccinated animals.

In addition, new types of assay have been under development and may be suitable for use as confirmatory methods following screening with NSP tests.

Vaccine development and assessment

In collaboration with several other European laboratories, IAH Pirbright has been conducting trials on DNA vaccines for FMD virus in pigs and sheep. It has found that a combination of DNA and conventional vaccination increases the cellular and humoral immune response compared to that induced by conventional vaccination alone. However, further evaluation is needed to assess the potential benefit that this may provide in terms of increased potency and duration of immunity.

Other work has examined the effectiveness of existing vaccines. Two strains of vaccine from the recently established UK FMD virus vaccine antigen reserve have been tested for potency in cattle according to the requirements of the European Pharmacopoeia. To model the efficacy of vaccination in the field, cattle have also been vaccinated and then exposed to infection by direct contact with previously infected cattle. The results have been compared to earlier studies which involved exposure of vaccinated cattle and sheep to infectious aerosols generated from pigs.

This has confirmed that the outcome of challenge in vaccinated cattle is highly dependent on the challenge route and severity, as well as the time between vaccination and challenge.

Further testing has revealed that although clinically protected animals could still become infected, the peak shedding of virus was approximately 100 fold less than in unvaccinated cattle. Use of very high vaccine doses did not prevent sub-clinical infection following a severe challenge, some such animals did become persistently infected, albeit at a lower rate than in cattle receiving a lower vaccine dose. The data from these experiments will help to refine mathematical models used to predict the effectiveness of FMD vaccines under different circumstances.

International coordination of FMD control

The FAO World Reference Laboratory for FMD has prepared new reference sera to be used as serological standards for FMDV serotypes O, A and Asia 1. These have been evaluated by nine European laboratories and approved by the OIE. A large panel of reagents and sera were distributed to laboratories in 22 countries to help establish and validate the solid phase competition ELISA and to provide quality assurance on serological testing in different national laboratories. The Reference Laboratory has also contributed to European workshops on NSP serology, laboratory contingency planning, OIE ad hoc working groups on NSP serology and on FMD antigen and vaccine banks..."


Risk assessment

In July we published the updated Risk Assessment undertaken by the VLA to assess the risk of FMD, Classical Swine Fever, African Swine Fever and Swine Vesicular Disease virus being brought into Great Britain (GB) in illegal imports meat and meat products and infecting livestock. The report is available on our website at

Read full CVO report