Animal diseases, such as avian influenza or African Swine Fever, know no borders and can continually affect new areas. Reducing the risk is possible through the implementation of procedures designed to avoid the introduction and spread of pathogens in animal populations.
Animal diseases are among the most significant limiting factors for livestock production. Their impact can vary from reduced productivity and restricted market access to the elimination of entire flocks or herds, and therefore trigger heavy economic consequences. In some cases, they can also threaten human health.
The appropriate implementation of biosecurity principles can prevent the transmission of pathogens to animals, humans and the environment as detailed in the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) Standards and guidelines. Measures, such as good farming practices and control of animals and products movements for instance, are crucial to prevent and contain outbreaks.
At the 28th Conference of the OIE Regional Commission for Europe, the results of a survey on the application of biosecurity in different production systems at individual, country and regional levels were presented. The 53 member countries of the region were invited to participate in the survey, and 39 countries completed the questionnaire.
The findings show that the vast majority of responding countries have appropriate national legislation (94.87%) and enforced action plans (92.31%) with regard to biosecurity. However, only half of the respondents indicated that their country had national funds to support the implementation of biosecurity measures or good farming practices (53.85%).
Furthermore, although implementation of biosecurity plans occurs most frequently in commercial poultry and pig production systems in Europe, the survey highlighted the need to enhance biosecurity in backyard and non-commercial farms, which can play a role in the spread of diseases.
Considering current animal health challenges, all countries need to be vigilant. This was illustrated by the recent cases of African Swine Fever reported in several European countries. Cases have also recently been reported in China with devastating consequences.
The scenario is challenging and in the absence of an effective vaccine, implementing OIE-recommended biosecurity measures in farms and at all country entry points is essential, in addition to other measures such as disease surveillance and early detection. Implementing biosecurity requirements does not only involve veterinarians but also numerous stakeholders such as hunters, farmers and transporters.
Avian influenza is another concern that should be considered as winter approaches, since that season is usually associated with an increased risk. Wild birds play a role as reservoirs and vectors of the virus, but other factors of transmission could be important unless appropriate biosecurity measures are set in place.
As an example of best practices, management of incoming and outgoing flows, procedures for cleaning and disinfection, protection measures against wild fauna and traceability requirements were described in the survey.
The capacity of countries to implement biosecurity measures in their territory is crucial. Investing in appropriate training and awareness raising of all stakeholders involved is a key responsibility of national authorities to change behaviors and improve the effectiveness of disease control programs.