Simulated swine fever outbreak planned

A major national exercise will test the government’s ability to deal with a large outbreak of classical swine fever (CSF), a highly contagious disease of pigs.

Exercise Walnut, which takes place on 12-13 June 2013, will simulate a national scale outbreak of CSF to test existing plans and policies for the control and eradication of the disease.

The realistic real-time simulation, organised by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), will establish Britain’s state of readiness, and help to identify how plans and procedures for managing disease can be improved.

Gordon Hickman, AHVLA head of contingency planning and regulatory affairs, said exercise Walnut would help to ensure that the government was prepared to respond to future disease outbreaks.

He said: “Exercises such as this allow us to identify better ways of working, and help ensure our approach to managing a significant disease outbreak is properly co-ordinated.

“We must continue to test and improve our disease control measures, and put ourselves in the best possible position to minimise the impact on farmers and their livestock should the worst occur.”

As part of the exercise, a National Disease Control Centre (NDCC) will be established in London, and multiple Local Disease Control Centres (LDCCs) will be established in locations to be confirmed.

In addition, a Disease Strategy Group (DSG) will be set up in Edinburgh, an Emergency Co-ordination Centre (Wales) (ECC(W)) in Cardiff and a Central Epizootic Disease Control Centre (CEDCC) in Belfast.

Three tabletop exercises, an on-farm exercise and a number of expert and strategic policy group meetings will take place as part of Walnut. Information from both tabletops will be fed into the main exercise. An evaluation report for Walnut will be published later in 2013.

The exercise will involve DEFRA, the Scottish government, the Welsh government, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and other key operational partners.

Otherwise known as hog cholera (HC) or swine fever, CSF is a specific notifiable viral disease of pigs. In its acute form, the disease generally results in high morbidity and mortality.

CSF is one of the most economically damaging pandemic pig diseases, is endemic across the world, including parts of USA, Mexico, Europe and Asia.

The disease was eradicated from the UK in 1966. However, there have since been several breakouts. A recent case in East Anglia in 2000 led to the slaughter of 75,000 pigs before the disease was beaten.

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